Title: Play the Game

Author: e-dog

Notes: Hey, two weeks ain't bad right? Better than the monthly update business. I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, so hopefully the updates will be more frequent. Thanks to all for sticking this out with me. To knope: I just realized I couldn't reply to you individually, so here's hoping you see this! Thanks so much for reviewing and for the encouragement! Trust keeping this all together isn't easy, but reviews like yours keep me grounded in the work and let me know that so far, it's all coming together as I had hoped. Thanks again.

Category: Crime/Paranormal/Drama

Summary: It was what Joanna was trying to say, was leading her to understand. She had no place to go because this wasn't where (or when) she belonged.

19

"I saw Maura," Jane said again. She had been waiting a long time to say it, to make it real. What had she really been doing this last month? Listlessly hoping that everything would right itself? Jane didn't recognize the woman she had turned into, because she really wasn't the same. Her life was beginning to fade away, the old one. Not completely, of course. Frost and Korsak, her family, and Maura were always present in her mind, but this new life was thinning out the old one.

And every time Jane grew hopeful, it was only because of Jo. With her persistent visits and affectionate endearments, Joanna was the only pillar that Jane had left. She had come here again to offer comfort, to relay the latest in their adventure and what did Jane do? She kissed the woman. Why? This wasn't a fairy tale! There was no yellow brick road. No frogs that turned into princesses. This was cruel and wrong. Joanna would never be Maura.

Joanna was positioned opposite her again, using a table to separate them. They were holding their drinks and if not for Jane murmuring again, "I saw Maura" all would have been completely silent.

Joanna managed to keep sipping as if she heard nothing, because maybe Jane could just go falling apart and putting herself back together whenever she felt like it, but Joanna needed to recover. A piece of her heart had been encouraging her to kiss Jane Rizzoli for the longest time. Abigail was gone, so why not? She could indulge for a few moments in time, right?

Joanna needed a moment to process what Jane was saying, what she was doing.

She thought that kissing Jane was nothing like kissing Abigail.

Jane was controlled, until she wasn't. She was take charge, ruled by her stilted emotions. Abigail was confident, until she wasn't. She was soft and gentle even when Joanna wanted to be anything but.

"Why did you kiss me?"

Jane finished her glass before answering. "Ever since I went back, I feel split in two. I'm having trouble separating."

"So when you say you saw Maura, you mistook me for her?" Joanna tried to keep the underlying hurt out of her words, but somehow knowing that Jane was just kissing her because she looked like someone else still hurt. But was she not doing the same in using Jane to replace Abigail? To her relief, Jane shook her head in the negative.

"No, I mean, when I went under the water, I woke up and saw Maura. She was next to me. It was real. After . . . I began to confuse you for her more so than I did before. My old life, my new life is melting together in my head."

What Jane felt for Maura, truly felt was no longer a secret she could keep from herself. Joanna was just a daily reminder that she could no longer lie to herself.

Joanna shut her eyes, breathed in deeply. I woke up and saw Maura.

The day Jane and Torin splashed around in the Charles, Joanna watched them helplessly struggle. She fought to reach them, to help Jane and the fact that she could not had haunted her these last few weeks. Joanna had promised that if something went wrong, she would save Jane. She promised to Jane she would dive in after her. "If I think anything is wrong, I will come get you myself."

Quickly, her promise dissolved into falsehood. Joanna couldn't save her and she wasn't certain what it was that eventually did. The whole ordeal was just a mess of jumbled events in her mind. She kept thinking, I'm going to lose her all over again.

Finally, the water stilled and Bobby had Jane in his arms. They both hovered over her, Bobby gripping her chin and shaking her head, crying. Begging that she open her eyes. Joanna was crying too. Should they attempt to expel the water? Should they hope that she just snap out of it on her own? They were both so irresolute; they never noticed the bedraggled Torin run off. They haven't seen him since.

And then Jane sputtered and gasped. Her eyes flew open in surprise and her coughs were violent, but a welcome sight. She was still alive. Joanna remembered how Jane grasped her tightly, urgently. Her teeth chattered as she pleaded, "Don't . . . go."

"I won't," Joanna promised, clutching her tightly. She remembered Bobby hovering close by, watching them with worried eyes. Whatever jealously he had been feeling had dissipated for now. He was happy that his wife had not died.

Now they were here. Jane was confessing that it had worked.

Joanna stiffened involuntarily. "Why are you telling me this? Why didn't you tell me this before?"

"If Abigail were here," Jane said seriously, setting down her empty glass. "Right now, if she were standing here and not me, what would you two do?"

Joanna swallowed hard. She hadn't given it much thought. Like Jane, she had mostly given up that she would ever see Abigail again. If Jane had stopped trying to go back, if she couldn't force Jane to try again, then what was the point in hoping?

Now that she knew it had worked, she was beginning to seethe from somewhere deep down. She hated Jane. She hated Jane for not saying anything! She hated Jane for kissing her.

How could Jane not tell her that it worked? Jane was home, if only for a few moments and it was possible for Abigail to return, somehow. That's what that meant, right? That when Jane was finally pulled from the water, she and Bobby could have just as easily been bringing Abigail back to their world?

"Don't step back," Joanna ordered, as she deliberately moved into Jane's space. The woman flinched, but she did not move. She waited until Joanna was toe to toe, face to face. It was the most space they had shared in the last few weeks, minus the kissing thing a few minutes before. Joanna willed herself to keep stoic, to keep from crying. "Why didn't you say anything?"

"Answer me first," Jane requested gently.

Joanna felt an urge to stamp her foot childishly, but she resisted. "If Abigail were here, I would. . ." She paused. Jane waited patiently. "I would hit her. I would punch her in the arm for leaving me. Then I would apologize. Then we would . . . we would figure out a way to fix everything. Jimmy. Bobby. Us."

She said "us" very quietly.

Jane looked down. "That's why I didn't say anything." She didn't elaborate and she knew that her answer wouldn't be satisfactory, but she wasn't sure how to express her feelings on the subject. Jane went to speak again, but not before Joanna actually punched her, hard.

Jane stepped back a little, grasped her upper arm where it stung. She ground out childishly, "Not cool, Jo."

"That's all you can say?" Joanna nearly yelled. "That's it? A whole month later, that's all?"

Jane shook her head. "If you knew that it had worked, you would be hopeful and then I would just disappoint you. I didn't want to . . ."

"Disappoint me?" Joanna narrowed her eyes, conflicted and angry. She sneered, "Just like Abigail. Always trying to protect me." Finally, she gave Jane some respite by taking a few steps back. In a mocking tone, she went on repeating Abigail's words. " 'No, Joanna. You can't go out to river! They'll be looking for you!' "

Jane sighed. "Jo, listen."

" 'No, Joanna. I couldn't tell you that it worked! It would hurt you too much!' " Joanna said, now mocking Jane. She even stepped forward and took another swinging punch at Jane's arm. She connected, mostly because the lanky brunette did little to deflect the attack. "Hurt me? Aren't you just my knight in shining armor?" She hit Jane again, accenting each word with a hit. "However should I repay you for saving me from such heartbreak?"

Jane frowned. "I could've died."

"You are dead!" Joanna yelled shrilly. She laughed hysterically then and momentarily felt awful for that look of horror on Jane's face, but soon found herself not regretting it at all.

"You gave up! We both did. Don't you see that? Do you know how much energy it takes to even visit you out here? How it feels like some damn funeral march every time I climb the steps to your room, only instead of a tombstone, I'm visiting a person who is just as much dead as they are alive? You're not the only one not sleeping, Jane."

"You want me to go back?" Jane said her voice small now. "Jo, it didn't work. I mean it did, but I'm still here. Going back means . . ."

"It means you are living, Jane. I want you to live. Oscar is an old man. He won't be here forever. Whatever took place out there? It scared me too, Jane. Do you think I want to witness that again? To watch you drown? If we can't muster up the courage to go, we certainly can't stay here. This isn't living. It's existing."

"People like Cirrillo don't just go away," Jane said evenly. "This life will follow you."

"Yes, it would follow me, but not you," Joanna corrected. Jane's eyes widened. "What? It's not as if we could ride off into the sunset together. But you could leave Boston. You could start over."

"I have no place to go," Jane said and as the words left her mouth, she knew that she really had no choice now. It was what Joanna was trying to say, was leading her to understand. She had no place to go because this wasn't where (or when) she belonged.

"Jane," Joanna said quietly. She grasped the woman's arms and shook her gently. "All we have left is to try. And I will help you try each and every time, because what else do I have? Jimmy is dead. My best friend is gone. I have you, but you are unhappy and as much as I want to keep you around, it only furthers my delusion that you can replace Abigail. We both know that can't work."

"Because Maura makes me happy," Jane said earnestly.

"As Abigail makes me happy," Joanna smiled brightly at the memory. "Maybe this is the lesson we needed to learn. This is the fear we have to overcome. This horrible thing doesn't have to win. We can beat it."

And there it was again. Jane was looking at Joanna and she felt her chest swell with something like hope.

Jane covered her face with her hands, groaned into them and shook her head as if in agony. "I feel like I'm in an episode of Dallas and we're trying to pull a Bobby Ewing." Jane didn't have to see Joanna's face to know that the woman was quirking an eyebrow up in confusion, but she didn't have the energy to elaborate or explain the reference. Instead, she lowered her arms at her side in a defeated gesture and said, "You win. I'll get a bath. I'll put on fresh clothes and look at this with fresh eyes."

"It has been a while since you bathed," Joanna agreed.

"Shut up. I'm depressed." Jane could feel herself grin a little. She could see Joanna's eyes lighten in amusement. Maybe they could figure this out. Jane said quietly, "Thank you, Jo."

"Go," Joanna urged gently and then pushed her toward the staircase. She watched Jane climb the steps. Her movements looked livelier, more hopeful. It was the most positive energy either of them had felt in many, many days. As Jane disappeared, Joanna smiled to herself. She said aloud, "It did work."

Hope. It was a nice thing to have. Now if they could only gather up a little faith as well.

"So what exactly is your plan?" Oscar said from behind her. He had been outside doing whatever it was he did, but it was clear he had returned and only Lord knew how long he had been standing there, eavesdropping. "I guess I appreciate you being here for her and all, darling, but she has a point. The water churned and did its voodoo thing, but we still don't have Abigail. We still don't have Torin. So what's the plan?"

"Since when do I ever need a plan?" Joanna questioned.

"Okay, doll. How about this? When are you going to tell Jane that you haven't exactly been welcomed back home with open arms?" Oscar said, in retort. "I mean, eventually she is going to notice that when you leave, it's not too far past the guest house."

"It's only been a week," Joanna sighed. "Daddy is just having a fit."

Oscar shook his head. "No, we both know it's more than that. I'm sure even Jimmy was allowed back home every once in a while."

"Fine, he doesn't trust me," Joanna sneered. "How am I to fix that? He knows I won't leave Abigail to fend for herself." She rolled her eyes, flopped down into a nearby chair. Resting her hands in her lap, she shook her head. "I never thought he would drop me the way he dropped Jimmy."

Oscar offered up a look of sympathy at least. "Jimmy didn't care as deeply as you for one of the lawyers trying to put his old man away." Oscar walked over to her and then gently took one of her hands in his. He noticed the roughness of her usually soft skin. He took note of the dirt under her nails. He asked knowingly, "How many times?"

"I've been able to try a few times," she nodded, pulling her hand back. "I've tried digging near all the big oak trees I can find. I doubt Torin would pick any other spot. He doesn't really think that far ahead, you understand. Unfortunately, none of them seem to have an 'x' scrawled into them either. I'm afraid I'm looking for a needle in a haystack."

At that moment, Jane came sliding back into the room with a harried expression.

Joanna frowned at her sustained haggard appearance. "That was a quick bath."

"There wasn't a bath. Outside. I could see them from upstairs. We have company."

"What?" Joanna said, wide eyed.

"I need a place to hide, Oscar," Jane said worriedly. "Bobby is out there and I think he's trying to make as much noise as possible to warn us. I need to hide now."

"Well, I have a place, but you won't like it," Oscar said, grasping Jane's arm and tugging. "Joanna, be a doll and answer the door when they come knocking."

Just as the two of them scampered into the study, the door flew open with no knocking to be had. Bobby strode in with a barely confident swagger and only Joanna would've noticed the slightly worried look in his eyes. Behind him were two young men, probably rookie police officers and what looked to be some mob muscle posing as police officers. Five altogether, counting Bobby. Joanna was not liking these odds.

"Problem, gentlemen?" she asked, putting on an air of self-assurance. She strode up to Bobby while trailing her scarf behind her, then deliberately hitting him across the cheek as she wrapped it back around her own neck. She almost laughed at his irritation.

"We have a warrant," Bobby said. "Cirrillo has just filed harassment charges against the owner of this house. He believes the resident has also stolen from him valuable assets. We are here to confirm this."

"Or refute it," Joanna added with a smile. "Might I ask what you're looking for?" She also reached out her hand for the warrant. Before Bobby could show it to her, it was snatched from his grasp.

"We'll know when we find it," the burly officer sneered at her, tucking the piece of paper into his coat.

"Give it a rest, Tony. I know it's you," Joanna replied, her expression darkening. "Seems it doesn't take long for business to go back to normal, does it?" She stepped toward Tony, once a loyal Doyle operative, now a selfish goon like Torin turned out to be. "Are we still looking for the ghost of a dead woman?"

"Well, you were the first one to have claimed to have seen her," Tony shrugged. He added, "According to the boss."

Well, that wasn't good. Daddy let loose her secret. No wonder they were here busting down doors. They knew that Abigail was alive.

"Well, I guess that makes me a little crazy then," Joanna smiled, giving no indication that this news was upsetting. She held up her hands. "Please, officer. Take me to the crazy house. I'll save you a seat next to me."

"Jo, enough mouth. Tony, just get this over with," Bobby ordered. "Maybe once you find nothing, you'll let my wife rest in peace."

The four other men split and began to search the house. Oscar emerged from the study, wiping his hands with a towel and looking every bit as annoyed as a man in his position should be. "Bobby? What's going on?"

"Procedure," Bobby answered, and once he could see no one else was in earshot, he leaned toward them, "And they got my family jewels in a vice right now! So please tell me she is safe."

"On my life," Oscar confirmed.

"Have you gone back?" Bobby then asked Joanna.

"As I told Oscar, the search is impossible," Joanna answered grimly. "Without Torin, I have no idea where to start looking. I've concentrated my search to where I think I found Abby that night, but there is nothing marked with an 'x'."

"Well, hopefully there is some comfort in knowing that they can't find it either," Bobby sighed. He grimaced when he heard some glass break.

Oscar shook his head. "Every time you visit Bobby, something in my house is either ruined or broken."

Bobby sighed deeply then retorted, "Honestly, we should blame the blood all over your rug on Abby's sucker punch."

Oscar turned his head, watching as one of the men went into the study. He could feel the sweat beading on his brow. The other two didn't say anything as they waited for a few long excruciating minutes. The man emerged empty handed.

Tony returned and looked at Bobby, "It seems that the complaint is . . ."

"Well, good day then gentlemen," Joanna interrupted him. Tony just about growled as Joanna forcibly pushed him toward the door. The other men followed, Bobby trailing behind them. With a reassuring hand on Bobby's shoulder, she leaned into to him, whispered in his ear, "It will be okay. Stay safe."

Once she had shut the door, she glanced over her shoulder at Oscar. "Just be patient. Wait until they drive away." She watched from a window and after a lengthy discussion between Bobby and Tony had ended, they all entered their cars and drove off. Finally. She rushed up to Oscar and said worriedly, "I hope she's not where I think she is. That has got be the closest thing to a coffin that there is."

Oscar led the way into the study and said, "What choice did I have?" He pushed the small buffet to the left a few feet and pulled back the rug. Underneath was a latched door and once that was unlocked, he pulled it open to reveal Jane, curled up into herself and eyes shut tightly. She was breathing through her nose heavily and once the daylight had hit her in the face, she immediately opened them.

"Jane?" Joanna called out softly.

"It smells like a liquor store in here," Jane said tightly. "And I might be stuck, so please help me out of here before I have a full blown holy-shit-I'm-buried-alive panic attack!"

"Prohibition," Oscar said proudly. As if having the ability to still get drunk during those 'dark times' was noteworthy. He gently began to untangle Jane's limbs and together, he and Joanna helped her to sit up and climb out of the floor. "Some of that scotch you enjoy? I used to hide it in here."

Jane groaned as she stretched out one of her arms. "Okay, goals for today. Find a new hiding place for the time traveling detective for the next time those mob guys show up."

"What we need is to find that ledger before Cirrillo finds it or you," Joanna corrected. "Daddy didn't keep my secret and it's probably because he wants us to speed up the search, so we need a new plan. It's as I was trying to say, Jane. Hiding out at Oscar's can't go on forever."

"Clearly, he's trying to flush me out," Jane sighed, then almost chastised herself for the clich├ęd line. "He probably knows we're smart enough to fool those men right now, but he'll have someone waiting at the river for us. He'll have someone waiting there for me."

"Yeah, he's thinking you know where the ledger is," Joanna reminded them. "He doesn't realize that you don't know."

"Well, this time, we should be ready for them," Oscar announced strongly. He reached back into the floor where Jane was previously stuffed and revealed a small firearm.

Jane's eyes grew big. "Was that packed in there with me?"

Oscar shrugged. "It wasn't loaded."

"Good God, Oscar," Jane sighed. She gestured to the floor and asked tiredly, "Do you have more in there?"

"Not here, but upstairs," Oscar replied, rising from the floor. "Jo, sweetheart, fix the latch on this door and place the furniture back. I'll go hunt down the rest of my arsenal."

"An armed journalist," Jane muttered. "Never thought I would be happy to have one of those."

"Jane?" Joanna called out to her, pushing the rug back into place.

"What?" Jane answered jadedly.

Joanna smiled sweetly. "The bath. I would get that out of the way first."

"Har, har," Jane said, rolling her eyes. "While I do that, find me some paper and a pencil."

"A pencil?"

"Something to write with."

"I know what it is. Why do you want one?"

"I . . ." Jane began, then stopped. The words wouldn't come.

For a moment, Jane's expression became so sad, so desolate that Joanna could feel it deep in her bones. And in that same moment, Joanna figured that whatever Jane needed these items for had to do with Maura, so instead, she shook off her questions, "Never mind. I'll fetch something for you."