Maura stirred. Everything felt heavy, as if there was a weight sitting on her chest and holding her captive in the dark. She tried to breathe, but her throat was unresponsive. She could feel foreign things invading her neck, clamped to her skin and piercing her flesh. She flexed her hands, relieved to find them functional, then quickly grabbed for the invasive unknown object on top of her.
As she moved, she felt steady hands grabbing her wrists, preventing her hands from exploring. She tried to scream, but her voice seemed to be gone. She tried to sit up, to shrink away from her captor, but the hands moved to apply a firm pressure to her shoulders, keeping her still.
Maura was trying to force her eyes open, to see where she had been taken, when a low voice whispered next to her ear. “You’re okay.”
The voice drifted over her murky mind, immediately triggering a terrified response. Her body thrashed to get away as she vividly remembered being held down, her mouth covered, unable to scream, as strong fingers pressed into her wounded shoulder.
The voice sounded again, more insistent and panicked. “Maura! Please stop! You’ll hurt yourself! You’re safe, nobody will hurt you!”
A sudden burst of adrenalin brushed away the lingering effects of the painkillers. Maura realised she recognised the voice, that there was no threat posed by the owner of that voice. She immediately stopped struggling, her eyes springing open in shock. Jane was leaning over her, her face worried, her hands carefully holding Maura still. They were in a hospital, surrounded by machines and sterile white surfaces.
Maura instinctively shrank away from Jane, the memory of the torture she had endured still too strong to casually dismiss. Her fear remembered not-Jane towering over her too well, and it was difficult to shake off this close to the edge of unconsciousness.
Jane seemed to understand, releasing Maura’s shoulders and moved them back to Maura’s hands, gently clasping them as she waited patiently for Maura’s terror to subside. Her worried expression combined with the soothing gesture was enough for Maura to start to separate the visions of past traumas from reality.
As Maura relaxed slightly, Jane did as well, releasing Maura’s hands and moving one hand to her cheek instead. Maura calmed further at her touch, finding comfort in the now familiar gesture. Her emotions finally caught up with her mind, acknowledging that this was Jane, her friend, not not-Jane, her torturer. Maura covered Jane’s hand with her own, needing to feel the gentle touch in order to settle her thoughts and flight instincts.
As her thoughts settled, one shining realisation leaped to the fore. She was alive, Jane had saved her, and Jane was here. Jane was alive. Jane was free.
Maura grinned widely, her grip on Jane’s hand tightening as she basked in her presence. Jane returned the smile, the worry on her face being replaced by relief and happiness.
After an unknown length of time, Maura felt calm enough to try to breathe and speak, but realised her throat was unresponsive. Jane saw the questions and imminent panic in her eyes and leaned closer to speak. “You weren’t breathing.”
Jane tapped her own throat, just above her clavicle, and Maura realised what she meant. Lucas must have caused enough damage to her throat to require a tracheostomy to get air past the blockage. Maura carefully ran her hands over the site, finding an attachment to a ventilator. Understanding why she couldn’t breathe normally, she relaxed slightly, before looking back to Jane again, this time with thanks in her eyes.
Jane simply smiled, her relief at seeing Maura awake and calm evident in her expression. They stayed in the moment contentedly for a few minutes, neither feeling the need to break the silence, their hands finding each other comfortingly.
Of course, the outside world didn’t have the same patience. A nurse breezed into the room with a casual demeanour, walking over to the machines monitoring Maura and noting down readings before she frowned. Her head whipped around to note Maura’s open eyes, her mouth forming a surprised ‘oh’.
The nurse checked the readouts again, bustling with more purpose, before manoeuvring around Jane to check Maura’s breathing tube. Maura found it telling that she didn’t ask Jane to move out of the way, instead simply working around her as if she was an immovable fixture.
After the check of the breathing tube was complete, the nurse moved on to Maura’s head. Maura hadn’t thought to ask about any other injuries, but now she remembered the heaviness in her chest, the blood on her face and the pain in her ankle. Sure enough, when she tried to lift her foot, she felt the weight of a cast weighing it down.
The nurse finished fussing with a bandage on Maura’s head, nodding in satisfaction. She finally met Maura’s questioning look, and realisation flashed across the woman’s face. “Oh, I’m sorry, you probably have no idea where you are! Miss tall, dark and silent here wouldn’t have been any help at all! I’ll send the doctor right in, and I’ll let your friends know that you’re awake.”
Before Maura could react, the nurse swept out of the room. Maura stared after her for a moment, before turning another questioning look Jane’s way.
Jane frowned for a moment, seeming to struggle to answer, before meeting Maura’s gaze seriously. “I trust you. I don’t trust them.”
Maura frowned in confusion, before thinking through the implications. Jane had a deep, ingrained fear of speaking because of the conditioning she’d experienced. She had a well reinforced link in her mind between speech and the most painful punishment imaginable. It had been the first stage of her indoctrination, and it was the most prominent aspect of her conditioning.
Maura realised how much courage it had taken for Jane to speak, especially in front of Lucas. Jane had known that Lucas was one of the handlers that had the power to punish her, and probably expected to be punished for that one ‘No’ that she had uttered when she defiantly stood between him and Maura, but she had managed to say it anyway. Protecting Maura had been more important than her fear, and more important than the pain it might cause her.
However, Maura also realised that just because Jane had overcome her fear in that moment, it didn’t mean she would suddenly return to her old self. The fear of reprisal still existed in every fibre of her being, and would most likely be there for the rest of her life. The nurse’s reactions suggested that Jane had been silent towards everyone else, as well as most likely ignoring any instructions or questions they had uttered. The fact that she was able to speak freely to Maura now revealed the deep level of trust between them.
Before Maura could react to her realisations, she heard footsteps at the door. She gently tilted her head to see who it was, expecting either the doctor or one of their friends. Instead, a uniformed officer stepped inside the room and took up a guard position next to the door.
Maura looked back at Jane with a frown, not understanding why either of them needed a protective detail. Jane simply rolled her eyes in exasperation, the expression hidden from the officer since Jane was facing away from the door.
Within seconds of the officer entering the room, a young looking doctor rushed into the room, seeming flustered. He took in Jane’s position next to the bed and sighed, reacting as the nurse had and crossing to the other side of the bed to work around Jane rather than addressing her and asking her to move. As he started to test her reactions with a light, Maura couldn’t help smiling at how Jane’s stubbornness had become well known to all the staff after only…
Maura frowned as she realised she didn’t know what day it was, or how long she’d been here. She looked at the doctor, who had finished with the light and was now checking her torso, and grabbed his wrist, meeting his surprised look with a demanding glare.
He gaped for a moment before remembering himself. “Sorry Dr Isles, I’ve gotten so used to the quiet in this room. Has anyone filled you in on what happened to you?”
Maura mouthed ‘no’ and patiently waited for him to continue. “Ah, my apologies. Okay, first of all, you’ve been asleep for almost three days. You were brought in with severe swelling to your throat, which required a tracheotomy in the ambulance on the way here. You also have bruised ribs which restricted your ability to breathe even further. You have a cut on your forehead which required stitches, and you have a broken ankle.”
Maura blinked, thinking through the implications of her injuries. As if reading her mind, the doctor continued. “We need to keep you here for at least a week to monitor your chest injuries and to ensure you don’t get an infection. Once the swelling in your throat heals, we can check for any permanent injury. If everything goes according to plan, we should be able to get the tracheostomy out and have you breathing normally before you leave. At this stage all your scans look clear, but we’ll be able to see more in a few days.”
Maura blinked again, and the doctor seemed to take that as an acknowledgement. “Okay, I think that’s all you need to know from me. I think you have some people from the police who want to speak with you, so I’ll leave you to it.”
Maura watched in some disbelief as the doctor walked out, surprised by his brusque bedside manner. In fact she wasn’t finished with the conversation, she needed to know her recovery plan, what her long term consequences might be, what drugs she had been given to know if there was any addiction risk, plus a multitude of other information. As it was, she still felt like she had very little idea what her condition was, and she also felt like she had minimal control. The doctor hadn’t been rude, exactly, but his desire to ensure she was comfortable and informed left a lot to be desired, and as soon as she could talk, she would be telling him just that.
Fortunately, a familiar face entered the room as the doctor left. Maura smiled when she saw Korsak, followed by Nina and Susie. They were all grinning widely, Susie practically bouncing towards her bedside. Korsak stopped to ask the officer to step back outside before he crossed to the bed as well.
Susie spoke first, her excitement and relief evident in her huge smile. “Maura! You’re okay! Are you okay? Do you need anything? Are you in pain? Should I get the doctor back? Should I stop talking? I’m talking too much. Sorry. Are you okay?”
Nina nudged Susie gently, grinning in amusement. Maura smiled back, just thankful to see them all safe. The fact that Susie was there rather than still hiding in another state boded well, but she needed to know what had happened with the rest of the plan before she could completely relax.
Korsak was standing next to Jane, smiling at her and Maura. He reached for his pocket, retrieving his notepad and pen before leaning over to give them to Maura. “I suspect you might need this more than I do.”
Maura smiled in thanks, quickly grabbing the pen and scribbling a question. What happened after the alley? Are we safe?
Nina saw the question first, a satisfied smirk appearing on her face as she answered. “Oh yeah, we’re all safe. The organisation is definitely finished. I managed to get the files out to all the law enforcement agencies we agreed on, and every single agent, sponsor or director of the organisation was arrested within three hours. Some of them didn’t come quietly, and they were killed while resisting arrest, including our Deputy Superintendent. Their new secret laboratory was raided, since one of the agents tried to cut a deal and gave up everything. We have all their equipment, positive identification and confirmed capture on every single person involved, and the names of all their victims. Don’t worry, we recorded the footage of the governor being dragged out of his office in cuffs for you to watch later. It was pretty entertaining.”
Korsak chuckled at the memory. “Yeah, if you thought a powerful guy like that wouldn’t cry like a baby, you’d be wrong!”
Susie grinned and joined in on the story. “There was a big story on the news detailing the capture of all the big players. Everyone we sent away for their safety contacted us, and they’ve all come back to Boston. It’s definitely over! We won!”
Maura smiled widely, the expression mirrored by everyone else, including Jane. The relief that washed through the group was liberating, after such a long ordeal. Korsak gave Jane a sideways hug, which Maura was amused to see Jane begrudgingly allow. Nina and Susie could barely contain themselves, their mirth completely contagious. Maura happily grabbed everyone’s hands, a firm squeeze the best substitute for a victorious hug that she could manage.
After a few moments of shared happiness, Maura frowned as another question entered her mind. Why is there an officer outside?
Everyone’s smile dimmed at the question. Korsak lost a brief but silent battle of wills with the others and reluctantly answered. “It’s to do with Lucas’ death.”
Nina quickly interjected before he could elaborate. “Please don’t freak out and try to jump out of the bed.”
Maura rolled her eyes, but mouthed ‘ok’.
Korsak looked wary, but continued hesitantly. “Basically, after we lost you and Lucas in the alley, Jane took off after the SUV. She sure can run, she was almost keeping up with the traffic as she chased you. She lost sight of you, but managed to get lucky and find you again. We could see you on a traffic camera crashing into the construction site, and we saw Jane follow you in there a minute or two later. After that, we don’t really know what happened.”
He paused, not wanting to voice the facts and the obvious conclusions that could be drawn from them, but knowing Maura needed to understand. “All we know is you were almost dead when we followed Jane’s GPS to the building, Lucas was dead, and his blood was smeared all over Jane’s arms.”
Maura’s expression must have looked thunderous, because Nina and Korsak both put a restraining hand on her shoulders to stop her lurching up from the bed.
Susie frantically tried to calm things down. “It’s okay! We all know neither of you would have killed him on purpose, and everyone saw Lucas kidnap you at gunpoint, so they don’t seriously think Jane did anything wrong! Cavanaugh just had to cover his bases so it doesn’t look like favouritism, at least until you woke up and we could get your statement! As you can imagine, they couldn’t get Jane to say much. Or anything. Or even nod."
Maura looked at Jane with a disapproving look, which was answered with a nonchalant shrug. Nina saw the exchange and decided to try to explain. “Jane wouldn’t leave you. She’s been a fixture here since you were brought in, and she refused to even acknowledge anyone other than us. She was just making sure you were okay.”
Maura’s glare softened instantly, and she understood. She was the only person Jane felt safe around, so it was no wonder she wouldn’t talk to strangers or do as they asked. More than that, Jane most likely felt that she had failed to protect Maura from Lucas, and wasn’t willing to take any further chances.
Maura scribbled furiously. I’ll write down a statement. Can you get me a bigger notepad?
Korsak nodded and stepped away from the bed. “I’ll go call Crowe, he’s the lead on Lucas’ death. If you give him your statement hopefully you’ll only have to do it once.”
Maura really wanted to be able to groan in exasperation, settling for an eye roll instead. Jane smirked at her reaction, the others echoing the sentiment. Crowe might not have been part of the organisation, but he was still a pain.
Maura looked up at Jane again, who was still hovering protectively next to her bed, and couldn’t help a contented smile. Despite the pain and anguish they’d been through, they had succeeded. Jane was okay, or at least she would be.
Even though she’d only just woken up, Maura suddenly felt tired again. She supposed the panic and adrenalin she’d felt when she first awoke must have worn off, leaving her drained. She realised her eyes were drifting closed, and reached out for Jane’s hand, needed to feel her nearby.
Jane realised what Maura wanted and grasped her hand happily. She glanced at Susie and Nina, who got the hint and quietly moved to the door, waving silently at Maura as they left.
Maura managed a weak smile in return, before pulling Jane’s hand close and allowing her eyes to close. She felt Jane lean over her carefully.
“Sleep. I’ll be here.”