Finally, the day had come for Maura to go home. Her recovery had progressed without incident, the tracheostomy being removed on schedule with no complications. Her throat was still sore and her voice sounded raspy, but her doctor predicted a full recovery with time. Her leg was still in a cast, and would be for several more weeks, but otherwise she was okay.
Jane had barely left Maura’s side for the entire duration of her stay. She had been persuaded to leave the room so Angela and Frankie could visit without incident, but only as long as Korsak, Nina and Susie were all in the room. As soon as the two had left again, Jane was back to watch over her friend. Everyone hoped that Jane would eventually be able to face her mother and brothers again without triggering her conditioning, but she wasn’t there yet.
Jane’s continuous presence revealed certain aspects of her conditioning that Maura hadn’t yet been exposed to. When Maura awoke one night after a nightmare, she had frantically looked for Jane, needing to see her friend rather than the apparition of not-Jane that had haunted her sleep. She had eventually located her, curled up on the floor at the foot of her bed. Maura remembered reading about the measures taken by the organisation to dehumanise their subjects, but she hadn’t realised that Jane still felt compelled to sleep on the floor rather than seeking the comfort of a bed or chair. She had cried herself back to sleep at the reminder of the trauma her friend had experienced.
Maura had also witnessed a regression in Jane’s eating habits. While at her house, Jane had demonstrated a complete lack of understanding when it came to utensils, and it appeared that nobody had taken the time to continue her reintroduction. Instead, Nina, Susie or Korsak would make sure to bring Jane food that she could easily eat with her fingers. As much as Maura appreciated them trying to make things easier for Jane, as well as being unsure of whether pushing her would be helpful or harmful, she knew that eventually Jane would need to be reminded of how to eat and interact the way she used to if she was going to return to any semblance of her old life.
By the time she was released, Maura had noted a whole catalogue of worrisome behaviours that Jane exhibited, all results of her conditioning. Most were subtle things, like her tendency to stare at people or stand just a fraction too close. Other things, like her sleeping habits, were more obvious obstacles to overcome. Fortunately it had been agreed unanimously that both Jane and Maura would be living at Maura’s house for the foreseeable future, at least until Jane felt more comfortable around people and Maura had recovered from her injuries.
Due to Maura’s injuries, she hadn’t been able to have a proper conversation with Jane, either about everything that had happened or about where to go from here. She had utilised the notepad to communicate, but grew frustrated with the slower pace dictated by having to write everything, and hadn’t been willing to delve into serious subjects until she had the use of her voice back. Similarly, once the various pieces of hardware had been removed from her throat, her voice had been so coarse and unintelligible that she was still reluctant to hold long conversations, preferring one word answers to questions.
As such, when Maura finally found herself at home, seated on the couch with an attentive Jane at her side, it seemed like the moment had come to have several overdue conversations. Korsak had left soon after dropping them off, needing to sort out some more witness statements for the ongoing trial prep around the organisation. Nina and Susie had stayed for dinner and the associated clean up, but had cleared out quickly after making sure Maura and Jane had everything they needed. Maura suspected that everyone had sensed her need to have some time alone with Jane to start working things out.
Before Maura could think of how to start, Jane surprised her by speaking first. “Maura, I need to know what I did to you all while I was reprogrammed.”
Maura gasped at the bluntness of the question, representative of Jane’s lack of social boundaries. This was one of the issues she had been hoping to address, but she had also hoped to work up to it, since the answer wasn’t going to be easy for Jane to hear.
Jane saw Maura’s uneasiness and frowned. “You don’t want to talk about it, I’m sorry.”
Maura shook her head, sitting up to get the most volume possible out of her croaky voice. “No, it’s all right. I was just surprised, I wasn’t sure you’d want to talk about it. I didn’t know if you remembered any of it, or if everything between being here and being at the factory was a blank.”
Jane nodded in understanding. “I don’t remember anything, but I do remember seeing that Nina was hurt, and she said she shot me and hit me with a truck. I don’t think she would have done that if I wasn’t trying to hurt her, or someone else.”
Maura tried to keep her face as impassive as possible. “Yes, unfortunately Lucas did force you to come after us.”
Maura recounted everything that had happened after not-Jane was activated, leaving nothing out. She wished she could spare Jane from the pain of the truth, but since Jane had spent four years wrapped in deception and falsehoods it seemed cruel and dangerous to withhold any information now. What Jane needed was to be able to trust people again, not be shielded.
Jane’s expression was harsh and angry while Maura explained their encounters. She visibly flinched when Maura told her about the torture in the hospital, her eyes falling to Maura’s shoulder and remaining there for the rest of the story. Her lip curled in distaste as Maura described her alternate persona, complete with high heels, fondness for pink sparkles and obedience toward monsters with human faces. She grimaced when they reached the chase through the underground facility, culminating in Susie being impaled on Jane’s blades and Frankie sacrificing himself to let the others escape. She frowned in discomfort throughout the retelling of the car chase that had led to Lucas’ capture, her expression lightening momentarily at the mention of Susie’s daring rescue with a fire truck. When Maura finally reached Jane’s entry into the warehouse and subsequent electrical liberation, she stopped, since Jane knew the rest first-hand.
Jane seemed to have frozen, her body coiled and shaking with rage, her eyes staring off into space. Maura watched with great concern, not knowing whether to speak or let Jane work through her thoughts. After several minutes, Maura decided to shuffle closer, gently touching Jane’s hand.
Jane jerked her hand back as if it was on fire, jumping up off the couch and backing away. Her anger melted away, her shoulders sagging as she was overcome by shame and guilt. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry Maura. I…I...”
Jane stuttered to a stop, so overcome she couldn’t seem to find words. Maura felt terrible for inflicting the knowledge on Jane, since she knew there was nothing Jane could have done to prevent anything that had happened. She awkwardly got to her feet, grabbing a crutch to hobble over to Jane.
Jane realised what Maura was doing and rushed fearfully to her side, holding her arms out but not touching Maura, her trepidation clear in her reluctance to make contact. “No, don’t, you’ll hurt yourself…”
Maura abruptly covered Jane’s mouth and met her gaze with conviction. “I’m fine. We’re all fine. Nobody thinks you had any say in what happened. Nobody blames you. Nobody thinks you could do anything to hurt us. We all understand that you had no choice. You weren’t even aware of what your body was doing. You don’t need to feel guilty for anything your body did while you weren’t in control. And we don’t need to forgive you, because we know you didn’t do anything wrong.”
Jane still didn’t move, but her eyes filled with tears. When they started rolling over Maura’s hand, she released her hold on Jane’s face and stumbled forward, pulling Jane into a frantic hug. Both of them started to sob, the pent up emotions that had been building for weeks, months and years finally finding an outlet in the comfort of the other’s arms.
Eventually, after both their tears had run dry, Maura had to pull back from the hug, her body not yet strong enough to stand for long periods of time. Jane realised the problem, and immediately helped lower Maura back onto the couch. As Jane moved to back away, Maura grabbed her hand, pulling her down next to her and curling into her side. She felt Jane stiffen initially, but after a few moments she relaxed, moving her arms to hug Maura closer. They both needed the closeness when their emotions were so raw. Maura had felt so lonely for so long, and she wasn’t ready to be alone again, even for a moment.
They sat together in shared silence for some time, both taking wordless refuge in the other’s presence. Eventually, Maura’s thoughts brought her back to the other questions that had been brewing for days, and she knew that it was time to move to the next difficult conversation.
She pulled away from Jane, grasping her hand to maintain some contact, then cleared her still scratchy throat. “Jane, are you okay to talk some more?”
Jane simply nodded, her expression trusting as she sat back. Maura sighed, hoping the trust would still be there when they’d discussed everything she thought needed to be said. “Okay. Well, what I wanted to discuss, is what do you want to do now?”
Jane frowned in confusion, and Maura jumped back in with a barely contained babble. “I mean, I don’t really know what’s going on in your head, and whether you want help, or if you want to go back to your apartment, if you want to work towards being able to see your family, if you want to become a detective again, if…”
It was Jane’s turn to stop Maura with a hand over her mouth, her expression amused. “Okay, I understand, slow down.”
Maura smiled as Jane pulled her hand back, and settled back to let Jane answer.
The smile faded from Jane’s face as she contemplated the question. “I’m not really sure. I’m still confused about a lot of things, and I’m having issues with my memory. It’s hard to work out what things are real, or which people hurt me or used to be friends. And whenever something doesn’t make sense or gets muddled, that’s when I react without meaning to, like I did at the hospital, or the first time I saw Frankie again.”
Maura gripped Janes hand a little tighter. “Can I help? If you tell me something you remember, I might be able to tell you if it really happened.”
Jane nodded slowly. “That might work. I think my memories of you are the least confused, and I know I can trust you.”
Maura smiled at the sentiment, before frowning. “I’ve been wondering something. Why is it that you trust me? You always have, right from the moment you followed me home. Was it because you remembered me as a friend, or was it because you thought I was your handler?”
Jane grimaced at the question. “I was hoping you might not have noticed that.”
Maura looked down, her unvoiced fear realised. “So, you didn’t come here because you felt safe, you came because you thought you were following orders.”
Jane tugged on Maura’s hand, getting her to look up at her pleading face. “No! I realise it may not seem like it because of my behaviour, but you were always my friend, my safe place. The reason I acted like you were a handler was because my memories and feelings were really scrambled, but I never thought of you as ordering me around or manipulating me. Ugh, I’m not explaining this properly.”
Jane swiped a hand over her head, her fingers lingering over the still prominent scars near her temples. “Okay. When I was first being indoctrinated, I was in a really confusing place. I think I was drugged, and there were screens with images running all the time, and I could hear voices of people I thought I knew saying all kinds of crazy things. I don’t remember specifics, but I remember I was scared, and I couldn’t move physically, so I tried to find a safe place in my head. For some reason, they weren’t using any images of you, so I could keep you the way I remembered you a lot easier. I managed to use you as my anchor, to keep myself somewhat sane. Whenever I thought I was losing myself, I’d remember something you’d done, or said, and I’d feel safe, so I could deal with whatever was being thrown at me. I ended up becoming passive towards outward attacks, and I was so confused that I thought everyone else had turned against me, but they never managed to touch you. I eventually let them make me compliant and docile, I would automatically do anything they asked me, to ensure that they wouldn’t try to take you from me.”
Maura had a cautious smile on her face as Jane continued. “After years of experimentation, they finally decided to try to send me on a mission outside the facility. They had mostly stopped messing with my head by that point, since I did whatever they asked anyway. They thought I was completely broken, and they were right, except for one bright thing I’d kept safe. They made the mistake of talking about the mission in front of me. When I realised they were after you, that despite all my efforts to keep you away from them they had decided to take you anyway, I decided that I couldn’t let them. I fought back. I got away. I resisted.”
Maura smiled broadly at the pride in Jane’s voice. Jane was sounding more like her old self every day, and the story of how she had overcome her programming was amazing to hear.
Jane smiled back before continuing. “The next few months are a bit blurry. I opened all the doors and escaped the facility, and ended up in a park. I scavenged for food, survived somehow, but without any familiar sights and people, I just floated. I didn’t know how to find you, and I didn’t know that I should probably be trying to run from the organisation, so I simply existed. Then, out of nowhere, you ran through the park, and it felt like my brain just woke up.”
Jane squeezed Maura’s hand fervently. “I followed you home, because I knew you. You were the person I was supposed to protect, and the person who would keep me safe. You were family, you were my friend, you were my home.”
Maura’s throat had closed with emotion, so she could only nod happily as tears threatened to run down her face once more. Jane smiled and continued unashamedly. “I know that I was responding like a robot for those first few days, but it was because somehow the feeling of safety at being around you got mixed together with the feeling of safety that came from obeying the handlers back in the facility. It just seemed natural somehow to respond to your commands, because if I was willing to obey those people, I should be eager to obey your commands to show how much I trusted you. I gradually started to remember myself the longer I was around you, when you kept showing me familiar things. I tried to respond to you as I used to rather than how I’d been programmed to, but it was difficult to break the pattern after so long. I kept reverting to my obedient ways, and even though I could see it hurt you, you kept trying with me, which kept telling me that I was right to feel safe with you. You made me realise it was okay to want to feel human again.”
Maura swallowed past the lump in her throat. “So, when you were obeying my commands, it wasn’t because you had to?”
Jane shook her head. “It was because I trusted you enough to steer me in the right direction when my head was too confused to know what was right. It was because I wanted to, not because I had to.”
Maura squeezed Jane’s hand, her emotions getting in the way of speaking yet again.
Jane sighed. “So, in answer to your question, I want to try to get better. I want to be able to be around people again without scaring them. I want to be able to speak to people, so I can apologise to everyone I’ve hurt, even if you say I don’t need to.”
Maura had opened her mouth to argue, but Jane’s raised eyebrow silenced her with a grin and a nod. Jane smirked before continuing. “I’m not sure if I could ever be a detective again, my brain may never work the way it needs to for police investigation. But I want to remember what it meant to me, how it made me feel, so I can decide for myself if it’s something I want.”
Jane glanced down for a moment, shifting uncomfortably, before looking back earnestly at Maura. “I don’t want to move back into my apartment by myself. I’ll sleep on the doorstep if I have to, but I need to make sure you’re safe.”
Maura smiled widely, nodding her agreement. “I don’t want you to move out either. I’ve been alone too long. I’d much rather have you here, where I know you’re safe and happy. And the doorstep won’t be necessary, I think I’ve got a room for you.”