Don't Speak

Chapter 28

Maura awoke peacefully, feeling well rested after a rare nightmare-free and prolonged sleep. She listened for a moment before moving, a slow smile appearing as she heard the sounds of someone making breakfast in her kitchen. She dressed slowly, knowing there was no hurry since it was a Sunday, which was fortunate since it was somehow already after eleven. As she moved around her bedroom, she thought about everything that was planned for the day, and everything that had led to this point.

Over the course of the last three months, her physical injuries had completely healed, leaving many new scars but no permanent impairments. Her voice occasionally rasped a bit more than it used to, but it was a minor inconvenience that she could live with.

However, those three months had served more purpose than just physical healing. The invisible wounds left on both Maura and Jane had been deep and disfiguring, and it had taken them a long time to start repairing them.

For almost a month, Maura and Jane had practically hidden away in the house, neither leaving the premises unless absolutely necessary. Their only visitors had been Nina, Susie and Korsak.

Maura had been almost overcome with anxiety whenever she was alone since waking up in the hospital. It was as if her mind had been storing her reaction to all the trauma she had endured, and the dam had suddenly ruptured. She could keep it under control and hidden whenever Jane was in sight, but she was consistently jumpy and nervous. Everyone had noticed how jittery Maura was, and how much it had made her withdraw from everyone, but they were reluctant to push the issue for fear of making it worse. As a result everyone walked on eggshells around her, trying not to make sudden movements or loud noises, which made Maura feel worse as soon as she realised what was happening.

The worst form of her symptoms manifested when she was barely awake, or when she suddenly noticed Jane’s presence unexpectedly. For a moment, she forgot. She thought she had been captured by the organisation, and that her memories of the last few weeks were false. She thought Jane was her warden, and that she would imminently resume the torture that had been postponed during her delusion of escape and victory. Those moments passed eventually, lasting anywhere from seconds to several long minutes, but each time she was left shaking and whimpering. She had been unsure if Jane realised what was triggering the attacks, and there was no way Maura would ever tell her.

Jane had been keeping to herself, seeming to want to deal with her issues alone as much as possible. It was frustrating for Maura, since Jane had opened up so much during their first few conversations, but she had quickly reverted to form, withholding her feelings and avoiding deep discussion. Maura wasn’t sure if it was her own anxiety that was making Jane withdraw, so she started making a concerted effort to overcome her own fears, as impossible a task as that seemed.

The only time Jane voluntarily came out of her shell was when she was trying to comfort Maura during one of her anxiety attacks. As soon as she saw the tell-tale signs, Jane would rush over, pulling Maura into her arms, muttering soothing words, stroking her hair or back until her breathing slowed and the tremors stilled. During those precious moments, she would sometimes tell Maura how she was feeling, or something that she’d discovered about herself, in an attempt to distract her from the fear. Those moments were pure torment for Maura, because she wanted more of them so Jane would continue to open up, but at the same time she was so tired of being afraid.

Their friends had obviously noticed the difficulties the two were experiencing, but despite repeated requests Jane wouldn’t agree to see any outside doctors, and Maura wouldn’t do so unless Jane did. Since there was nobody else to help, Nina, Susie and Korsak took it upon themselves to try. They settled into separate routines, with at least two of them visiting Maura’s house every day.

Nina had been doing all the shopping and errands, as well as keeping them company for as long as she could. She often brought takeaway and stayed for a meal, ensuring that the pair weren’t withdrawing completely or getting stuck in their own heads. She would always make sure the mood was light, and became a great source of optimism and encouragement during the tempestuous first weeks after their return home. Both Jane and Maura had a tendency to overthink and dwell on their demons, but Nina’s bubbly appearances inevitably dragged them back to a more positive place.

Korsak had been updating them on the progress of the prosecution of everyone involved in the organisation. Due to the public outrage over the existence of such a dark and insidious group, the case had been very rapidly progressed through the system. A few of the agents involved had struck deals for reduced sentences, which resulted in every high up participant having nowhere to hide. The information recovered by Nina had identified all the subjects that were out in the world unaware, and those people had been gently and discreetly contacted. The last few escaped subjects had also been found and put into treatment, either medical or psychological depending on their particular situation. Jane and Maura started to feel safer with each of Korsak’s visits, as each one reinforced the basic truth that their ordeal was truly over and there was nobody left from the organisation to come after them.

Susie had taken it upon herself to try and help Jane overcome her conditioning, even as she attempted to overcome her own. Jane had agreed after a lot of consideration, as she could see how guilty Susie still felt and wanted to help the young woman get past her own trauma. Susie had been the first person other than Maura that Jane could, or would, talk in front of. Both Susie and Maura had been thrilled and heartened immensely, with Susie crying happily for almost ten minutes after Jane had uttered her first innocuous ‘hi’. They worked together nearly every day, discussing their experiences, trying various deprogramming techniques, testing themselves against their conditioning in the relative safety of Maura’s house. Maura assisted wherever she could, reluctantly ordering them to do things as a handler so they had the opportunity to resist their compulsion to obey.

It had been a long and problematic process, and it hadn’t gone smoothly the whole time.

Around three weeks after they started, Jane had a bad reaction while trying to resist one of Maura’s commands and knocked her away before she realised what she was doing. The cast on Maura’s foot had slipped on the tiles, making her lose her balance and fall into the bench. Before Maura could recover and reassure Jane, the panic and guilt overcame Jane and she ran out the door.

Maura and the others spent the next two days looking for her. By mutual agreement they had managed to disable Jane’s GPS tracker the week after they got home, which meant they had no way to find Jane easily. Finally, after Maura had come home exhausted and frantic, she found Jane waiting for her in the kitchen, remorse and shame evident in her posture and expression. Maura had run to her, punched her hard in the shoulder, then dragged her into a desperate hug, begging her to never run again.

They had talked for hours that night, discussing everything about where they stood and how much they were each willing to risk to help the other. Jane had intended to come back, apologise, then leave to ensure Maura never got hurt again, but the desperation and anxiety Maura had shown after hearing that information convinced Jane that she was needed and wanted right where she was. Until that point, Jane had known how much she relied on Maura, but she somehow hadn’t realised how much the feeling was reciprocated. Maura may have endured different traumas, but she was just as much in need of mental healing as Jane in many ways.

The scare had galvanised everyone to work even harder, and Jane hadn’t had a loss of control since. She still visibly struggled to disobey a handler command, but she could do it every time. Maura had finally agreed to see a doctor and get some anxiety medication to take the edge off her attacks. After all the concern and effort Nina and Korsak put into finding her, and keeping Maura safe while she was gone, Jane had trusted them enough to talk to them as well.

Once Jane had overcome that barrier, the group started coming over for weekly dinners. It had been tense at first, but gradually everyone simply became comfortable with the new group dynamic. Jane started interacting more casually, having full conversations instead of only talking when absolutely necessary. Maura followed her lead, opening up and starting to feel less nervous around people again. Gradually the depressing cloud that had seemed to fill the house started to lift, and both Maura and Jane started to feel like they were on the right path to recovery.

After a month and a half of working with Jane and Maura, Susie had managed to break her conditioning, and had returned to work. She had been welcomed back to BPD as a hero, the staff throwing her a huge welcome back party. The ease of Susie’s return to work had gotten Maura thinking about what she wanted to do, and she quickly concluded that she did want to return to work as soon as possible. Through consultation with her doctor, a tentative return date was agreed upon, around three months after her release from hospital.

The return date had given her another six weeks to continue working through things, and Maura was confident that she would be ready. The only concern, besides ensuring that she was recovered enough to handle it, was what Jane wanted to do.

As the time for Maura to return to work approached, she and Jane both became apprehensive about being apart. They had barely left each other’s side for over two months, and it would be hard to be separated, but they both knew they needed to take that step if they wanted to continue to work towards reclaiming their normal lives.

They started leaving the house together, either for shopping trips, visiting the others or simply going for runs. Both of them were highly anxious to begin with, scrutinising every person they passed and remaining vigilant for danger every moment, but gradually they settled and found being out in the world more tolerable, especially once Jane started relearning her old mannerisms and losing her conditioned ones.

Over time, the pair had started to address and overcome the finer details of Jane’s programming. For the first month, Jane had slept in Maura’s room by mutual agreement. To begin with, she had still slept on the floor, but once she realised how distressed that arrangement made Maura, Jane forced herself to return to sleeping in a bed. It took almost two weeks for her to remain in the bed for the entire night, but gradually she adjusted and was eventually able to sleep normally.

Once Jane could bear to be in a bed, they proceeded to the next phase of adjustment and moved Jane into the guest room. The move precipitated almost two weeks of broken sleep for both of them, with Maura experiencing nightmares several times most nights and Jane frequently returning to Maura’s room to ensure she was still safe. They both broke the rules and moved rooms during the night multiple times during the adjustment period, but slowly the nightmares faded and Jane started to relax, gaining confidence that Maura would be safe without her in the room. Almost two months after coming home, they both managed to sleep through the night in separate rooms.

Jane had also started relearning her old social cues. She was remembering to stop staring at people incessantly, she started standing at a more comfortable distance, she engaged with people instead of ignoring their presence. There were still times when she forgot herself, but over the course of a few months her mannerisms were closer to those of her old self. She also relearned how to eat with cutlery, a great boon once the group started enjoying their weekly meals.

Once they had overcome their fear of the outside world together, they moved to the next phase. Maura had kept in contact with Frankie and Angela consistently during their time of healing, and had been keeping Jane updated on their communication as well. Jane had been reluctant to see them while she was still unsure of her control over her conditioning, so Maura decided she would go and have lunch with Angela by herself. It was a good opportunity, both to test her ability to function without Jane, and also to see Angela again, who she missed terribly.

After an anxious first few minutes, the meal had felt like a breath of fresh air. Angela had, of course, been unable to contain her reaction when she first saw Maura, pulling her into a bone crushing hug and refusing to let go for several minutes. When she was finally released, Maura was slightly shaky, but she wasn’t as alarmed by the close contact as she thought she was going to be. The two had fallen back into their old pattern of conversation quickly, catching each other up on their daily lives and simply enjoying each other’s company again. Angela’s face would grow momentarily pained whenever the subject of Jane came up, but she had been completely understanding about Jane’s reluctance to contact her, and simply offered whatever help she could provide.

When Maura had gotten home, she had found Jane waiting nervously just inside the door. Maura could only smile genuinely, realising that even though Jane was obviously uncomfortable about being apart from her, they had both gotten through it with minimal issues. Jane returned the smile, realising the same thing. Jane then surprised Maura by asking how her mother was, with barely any hesitation or fear. It seemed that there had been more progress than Maura realised in Jane’s mind when it came to her family.

Maura smiled to herself as her awareness returned to the present. They had both come a long way in three months, and things were looking promising. Today would be another big test for both of them, but she was hopeful that they would both pass.

Maura made her way to the kitchen, smiling when she saw what was unfolding. Jane was working industriously on some sort of breakfast, involving eggs, flour and something green judging by the remnants stuck to her shirt and face. Her short spiky hair had a streak of white flour through it, and her face was fixed in a determined grimace as she stirred something on the stovetop. Maura leaned on the doorway, not wanting to interrupt, and watched in amusement.

She couldn’t help bursting into laughter a moment later, when Jane attempted to flip a pancake and instead launched it into the ceiling. Jane looked at Maura in surprise, clearly not realising she had an audience, then looked back at the pancake in time for it to fall in her face.

Maura slid down the wall helplessly, peals of laughter wracking her slight frame. Jane looked at her in indignation, before wiping the remnants of the batter away and chuckling. She turned the stove off and dropped the used frying pan on the bench before moving to join a still snickering Maura sitting against the wall.

Jane glared good-naturedly for several long moments while Maura held a hand over her mouth, valiantly trying to stop giggling. Finally she managed to calm herself enough to speak. “How’s breakfast coming along?”

Jane glanced back at the kitchen. “It’s ready. All you can eat flour, pancake batter and raw eggs. Help yourself.”

Maura chuckled again, Jane smiling widely as she nudged her shoulder with a sigh. “I tried, I failed, moving on. How did you sleep?”

Maura nudged back. “I slept quite well, thank you. And although the result may not have been ideal, thank you for trying to cook.”

Jane snorted as she got to her feet and pulled Maura up with her. “Yes, well, maybe I’ll leave the cooking for you next time. Or Nina, isn’t she coming over today?”

Maura nodded as she moved into the kitchen, inspecting the scattered ingredients to see if anything could be salvaged. “She should be here within the hour.”

Jane nodded and started cleaning up. Between the two of them, they managed to recover a decent breakfast and clean up the kitchen. Just as they were finishing, they heard a knock on the door.

Maura grabbed their plates and headed for the kitchen while Jane answered the door. She returned moments later with Nina in tow.

Nina carefully deposited her laptop on the table, noticing the set table before calling out to Maura. “Morning! How was breakfast?”

Jane rolled her eyes as Maura’s only response was laughter. “Don’t ask. What’s with the computer?”

Nina’s expression rapidly transformed from restrained amusement to nervous anticipation. “Ah. Well, we wanted to talk to you about something we’ve been working on.”

Maura had made her way back to the table as Nina was talking, and now looked at Jane with a suddenly serious demeanour. “Now, Jane, we want to run something by you, and if you don’t want to go through with it, it’s not a problem. We don’t want you to do anything you aren’t comfortable with, we just want to present an option.”

Jane frowned in confusion. “Okay, what is this ‘option’ that has you both so nervous?”

Maura glanced at Nina for reassurance before continuing. “As you probably remember, the organisation restrained the healing abilities of the nannites to leave your scars from the various surgeries, for whatever twisted reason. Nina has found a way to rewrite your nannite program, if you want to, so that all your scars will heal.”

Jane’s eyes widened in surprise. “All my scars? You mean…all of them?”

She clasped her hands together, rubbing the old scalpel scars in her familiar nervous manner. Maura smiled knowingly. “Yes, including those ones. And your gunshot wound, and all of your other scars from both before and after you were taken. You’d be completely healed.”

Jane stared at her hands for several long moments. Maura glanced at Nina, who seemed to be holding her breath.

Jane frowned, the indecision clear on her face. “So, would I be able to get them back if we did this? Would they really be gone, or would it be like when the nannites just made me look different?”

Maura reached over, taking Jane’s hand comfortingly. “No, they would be gone for good.”

Jane nodded slowly, her eyes tracing the exposed scars on her arms. There were so many, big and small. They all told stories of her pain, but they also spoke of her survival. Maura understood why this was such a big decision, and she wasn’t sure what Jane would decide, but as they had said, this was about giving Jane the option to decide for herself.

Maura squeezed Jane’s hand gently. “You don’t have to decide anything now. The code is ready, and it will still be ready tomorrow, or next week, or a year from now if you decide you want this.”

Jane took a deep breath and shook her head. “No. No, I don’t want to wait, let’s do this now.”

Maura sat back, surprised. “Now? You don’t want to think it over for a while?”

Jane shook her head again, firm in her decision. “I don’t need to. I know people can’t see past the scars when they look at me. They make it impossible for anyone to see me as anything but a victim. I don’t want to be seen that way anymore. Not as a victim of Hoyt, or a subject of the organisation, just as me. Maybe if I look like myself again, people will see that I’m getting better.”

Maura smiled widely. “And you are. You’ve come a really long way Jane.”

Nina nodded in agreement. “And nobody sees you as a victim, even with the scars. People just know that you’ve been through a lot, but you’re still standing tall.”

Maura wanted to make sure Jane had thought it through all the way. “Jane, please don’t do this just because of what other people might think. Your scars have been a part of you for a long time, and it might be hard not having them anymore. Although they came from painful experiences, those things have shaped you. Don’t rush into taking away something that reminds you of how much you’ve overcome to get here.”

Jane smiled at them both. “I don’t need the reminder. I’m pretty sure all of my past will be with me whether I want it to be or not. Having scars might have been something to take strength from before, but now they’re unnecessary. I have people I trust not to let me fall, and I know myself again. I’m ready to put it all behind me. Let’s do this.”

Maura kept holding Jane’s hand, the two of them still drawing comfort from the simple gesture, as Nina set up the transfer. After several minutes, she finished typing and looked at Jane. “Okay, the program is ready to go. I just need to activate your hub, and I can load the program. Are you 100% sure you want to do this?”

Jane didn’t answer, instead moving her hand under her shirt and finding the control on the hub. She pressed the button and nodded to Nina.

With a final keystroke, the program started loading. Maura kept her gaze on Jane’s face, watching for signs that their work had been successful.

It started subtly. The tissue at the edges of the jagged scar across her face softened. The puckered edges of the wounds at her temples started pulling back, smoothing out the raised marks. The scattered remnants on Jane’s arms faded, gently matching the surrounding skin tone and disappearing.

Jane held up her free hand, watching in fascination as the old scars melted away, taking the reminders of her past traumas and confining them to her memory, where they could be revisited as she desired instead of whenever she looked in a mirror.

Maura felt a tear track down her cheek as she watched the last of Jane’s scars disappear, the deep cut on her face the last to go. She smiled happily, seeing the face of her dearest friend unmarred by the actions of others. Wordlessly Maura held out a mirror that she’d retrieved and sat back, giving Jane the choice to look in her own time.

Jane waited a few moments, looking nervous, before lifting up the mirror. Her eyes squinted in confusion for a moment before they softened in recognition, her mouth opening in amazement as she moved her head from side to side. A wondering smile slowly spread over her features as she absorbed the sight of her restored face, a sight she hadn’t seen in years. She lowered the mirror and smiled giddily at Maura and Nina. Maura had been expecting some sense of grief or uncertainty from Jane when she lost her scars, but instead the healing of her body seeming to have released some residual restriction of her spirit. She looked happy, and light, and free.

Nina whooped in victory when she saw that Jane was okay with the transformation, throwing her hands in the air in celebration. Jane and Maura laughed at the exclamation, standing up and hugging happily. Nina jumped over and joined the hug, rubbing a hand over Jane’s head and ruffling her short hair. Jane was too happy to squirm out of the hug as she normally would, instead reaching out and crushing Nina against Maura’s side awkwardly.

The joyful embrace was interrupted by a casual knock on the door, followed by Korsak’s booming voice. “Anyone home?”

Jane let go of everyone with a grin. “Yeah, we’re in here!”

Korsak came through the door holding an armful of shopping bags, followed by Susie similarly loaded up. They made their way to the kitchen, shouting greetings to everyone without really looking.

Nina hung back to pack up her computer while Jane and Maura moved into the kitchen, both with barely contained grins. Susie was packing things into the fridge while Korsak looked at the roof with a puzzled expression.

He noticed that Maura had entered the kitchen and pointed to the mark that had caught his eye. “Did something happen to your roof, doc?”

Maura suppressed a snort. “Uh, Jane was helping to cook breakfast.”

Korsak chuckled and turned to Jane, presumably to needle her about keeping the food off the ceiling, and gasped as he saw her properly. He stumbled back a step, his face amazed as he took in her new appearance.

Susie heard the sudden void in the conversation and turned around to see what had happened, letting out a surprised squeal when she understood. “You did it! You figured it out! Wow! You look amazing!”

Jane was almost bowled over with the tackling hug from Susie, getting a laugh from Maura and Nina, who had just joined them. After a few moments, Susie released her prisoner with a happy laugh, Jane giving her a disapproving but friendly glare as she reclaimed her limbs. Jane looked back at Korsak, who still seemed to be in shock.

When he realised everyone was staring at him, Korsak cleared his throat and stepped closer to Jane, his voice gravelly and heavy with emotion. “It’s good to see the old you again, Janie.”

He glanced at her hands meaningfully for a moment before he pulled her into a gentle hug, which Jane returned wholeheartedly. Maura almost wanted to cry herself at the heart-warming scene, the sight of Korsak overcome with what felt like fatherly love touching them all deeply.

After a few long moments, Korsak pulled away and quickly wiped his eyes. He glanced around, seeing three sappy looks directed at him, and cleared his throat brusquely. “Okay, show’s over, we’ve got a dinner to cook.”

The group laughed good-naturedly, Susie nudging him on the way back to the fridge. Maura could only smile happily at the domestic atmosphere that had developed between them all, including the banter, the support and especially the deep affection one could only find in a real family.

Everyone settled into their usual roles for preparing their weekly dinners, all pulling their own weight and chatting amicably. Jane’s role, by unanimous agreement, was to stay out of the way, so to pass some of the time she went and got changed out of her batter splattered clothes. They had plenty of time, so a leisurely pace was set that allowed ample time for conversation, drinks and good company.

By the time four rolled around, dinner was ready. As the hour had approached, everyone started talking faster, covering their rising nerves. Maura had stopped helping and had claimed the seat next to Jane, casting furtive glances at her every few minutes. Jane had withdrawn from the conversation and was staring into space, her hands unthinkingly rubbing over her missing scars.

The whole room froze when a firm knock sounded at the door. Susie was the closest, and after a reassuring nod from Maura she went to answer the door.

Jane locked eyes with Maura suddenly, her hand shooting out and finding Maura’s with a slight edge of panic. “Is this really a good idea?”

Maura tried to hide her anxiety and smile, mostly convinced of her own words. “Yes. You’re ready. They’re ready. It’s definitely time. You’ll get through this, I promise.”

Jane studied her expression for a moment before nodding, the determination clear in her eyes. She continued to hold Maura’s hand as they got up and faced the visitors.

The murmurs that had heralded their approach fell into silence as Angela and Frankie saw Jane for the first time in months. Angela gasped and put a hand over her mouth, her eyes tearing up instantly. Frankie put a hand on her shoulder as he smiled cautiously at Jane.

Jane seemed frozen, seemingly not on the verge of attacking but also not responding. Maura gently nudged her arm, then decided to act in her stead. “Angela, Frankie, welcome. It’s really good to see you both.”

Angela nodded, a small choked sniff indicating that she was having difficulty speaking past her emotions. Frankie patted her shoulder again before he stepped forward. “Hi Maura. Everyone. Jane. Thanks for inviting us.”

Maura smiled appreciatively at Frankie before turning back to Jane, giving her another more forceful nudge. Jane blinked, looking dazed, before focusing on Frankie. She carefully looked him over, apparently determining whether he was a threat, before giving him a curt nod of acknowledgement. He smiled brightly, seemingly thrilled to have gotten even that much from Jane considering how badly she’d reacted to his presence in the past.

Jane then looked to Angela. The older woman had lost her battle with tears, and her face was now streaked with gleaming evidence of how much she was feeling. However, she was winning the battle against her emotional control and managed to force out a strained sentence. “Hi Janie.”

Maura could see that Jane was fighting against a resurgence of her conditioning, as her face showed the tiny signs of duress Maura had grown so familiar with over the past months. However, she recovered in mere seconds, softening her harsh expression and giving Angela a nod. To everyone’s surprise, a small smile flitted over her face as she relaxed slightly, squeezing Maura’s hand to indicate her acceptance of the new arrivals.

Korsak and Susie had spent a lot of time preparing both Rizzolis for the visit, and they both stuck to the script. Neither of them tried to approach Jane, they both moved slowly and kept their hands visible, and they didn’t speak directly to Jane. As the whole group stood awkwardly and exchanged pleasantries, Maura leaned close to Jane and whispered in her ear. “Are you okay? Do you need us to change anything?”

Jane smiled and shook her head, shooting a quick glance at her mother. Angela was talking with Susie, her movements subdued and out of character for the normally exuberant woman, while also sneaking occasional glimpses of Jane. Their eyes briefly locked, and Jane gave her another smile before turning away. Maura couldn’t resist giving Jane a quick sideways hug in encouragement before moving away to start serving dinner.

Everyone moved to their places without a hitch, and the initial awkwardness seemed to have dissipated. Jane sat between Maura and Susie, with Korsak and Nina sitting across from them, Frankie sitting at the end of the table and Angela sitting at the other. Conversation flowed freely around the table, with everyone getting reacquainted with the Rizzolis after so long in forced isolation. Angela couldn’t help looking wistfully at Jane, obviously wanting to try and engage her in conversation but valiantly trying to obey her instructions. Maura felt great pity for the pining mother, knowing she only wanted to help her daughter and missed her dreadfully.

Around halfway through the meal, Maura felt Jane shift in her seat and glanced at her, trying to understand what she needed. Jane met her questioning look with a determined one, before astounding Maura with her next action.

“Ma, can you pass the salt?”

The room went deathly silent as everyone stared at Jane in astonishment. After a few stunned moments Korsak dropped his fork loudly, jarring Angela into motion. “Of course! Here Janie, here’s the salt. Of course you can have the salt!”

Angela’s voice hitched as a huge smile overtook her face, mirrored by everyone else at the table. Jane reached out a hesitant hand, taking the proffered salt shaker with a small nod. Everyone continued to stare as Jane shook a few grains of salt onto her plate before putting it down and picking up her fork. She realised the room was still silent and poked Maura in the leg none too gently, encouraging her to start up the conversation again.

Maura immediately launched into a spiel on optimal salt intake, but she was only half concentrating on her ramble, too excited by Jane’s breakthrough. She snuck her hand into Jane’s and squeezed enthusiastically as she talked, and received an answering squeeze back. The mood of the whole group soared, as everyone understood the significance of what had just happened.

When the meal was finished, Nina, Susie and Korsak unobtrusively withdrew to the kitchen to clean up, leaving Jane and Maura alone with Angela and Frankie. Jane was still standing behind Maura, but she was making solid eye contact with both her brother and mother.

Angela was fidgeting, clearly wanting to give everyone a hug but restraining herself, as she bid Maura goodbye. “Thank you so much for having us Maura. I’m so glad you’re doing so well.”

Maura nodded with a smile, knowing that Angela was really talking to Jane. She stepped forward slowly, pulling Angela into the hug she knew was desperately desired. Angela hugged her back with bruising force, small trembles in her arms giving away how much emotion was being restrained.

Maura moved to hug Frankie next, whispering in his ear. “She’ll come around. Thanks for coming. Thanks for being so patient. Please make sure Angela is okay, and let me know if I can help.”

He nodded as Maura stepped back to Jane, looking at her hopefully. Jane glanced at her thoughtfully, before surprising everyone again and moving over to her mother.

Angela let out a huge sob as Jane pulled her into a hug, her arms snaking around Jane and hanging on as if she would never let go. Frankie couldn’t help shedding a few tears as he watched the reconciliation, his gaze meeting Maura’s in shared joy. Maura was crying now too, her hand over her grinning mouth in amazement as mother and daughter reconnected.

Jane pulled back with a small smile and immediately grabbed Frankie, hugging him fiercely too. He returned the embrace wholeheartedly, his face shining wetly over a huge smile. Maura could hear sniffles and excited exclamations from the kitchen as everyone realised what was happening. She just couldn’t get the giddy smile off her face.

After too short a time, Jane dropped her arms and moved back behind Maura, a small smile still on her face. “Thanks for coming.”

Angela was too choked up to speak, so she just nodded and grabbed Frankie’s arm for support. He turned Angela towards the door, managing to force out a few strangled words before they left. “Thanks Janie. We’ll see you soon, okay?”

Jane simply nodded and watched as they left, Angela watching her through teeming tears until the door closed between them.

Maura immediately spun around and launched herself at Jane, practically crushing her in an excited hug. “You did it! Jane, you were amazing! I’m so proud of you!”

Jane simply rolled her eyes, squirming in the tight embrace. “I just asked for some salt.”

Everyone burst into laughter, making their way out of the kitchen to join in a big group hug with a fidgeting Jane in the middle. They finally let go, letting Jane recover from her discomfort at being the centre of attention. The atmosphere in the room was exultant as the clean-up recommenced, as all their hard work over the past three months had paid off in full. Life was truly returning to normal.

After the place was clean, everyone slowly shuffled out, heading home ready for the working week ahead. It would be a big week, so they all needed their rest. Jane and Maura thanked everyone earnestly, knowing how much they owed to these three people. Susie was the last out, unable to restrain herself from enthusiastically hugging Jane one last time before she left.

Finally the house was quiet, and it was just Jane and Maura. They found themselves on the couch, staring thoughtfully into space as they digested the events of the evening and considered the week ahead.

Maura was the first to break the silence. “So, tomorrow is the day. I go back to work.”

Jane nodded slowly. “And I start my recertification process.”

Maura smiled serenely. “I’m so glad you decided to get your job back. The place hasn’t been the same without you there.”

Jane let the thought hang in the air for a few moments before replying. “Do you think things will ever be the same?”

Maura shook her head resolutely. “Definitely not. We’re all different people than we were four years ago. We’ve seen more than we wanted to, we’ve experienced things nobody should ever experience. We’ve spent too long missing each other and having to find ways to cope alone.”

Maura met Jane’s gaze with conviction. “But just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s worse. We have a great group of friends that would do anything for us, as we would for them. We know how important the job is, because we know what it was like when the system let us down, and we won’t let that happen to anyone else.”

A sly grin crept onto Maura’s lips. “And you’ve got super powers now, so the bad guys don’t stand a chance.”

Jane chuckled lightly at that. “Damn right! I’ll show Boston what a bad-ass detective really looks like!”

They both laughed heartily, caught up in the silly moment. It was a nice change from the unshakeable seriousness of the last few months, and they had developed a habit of grabbing any light moments and making the most of them.

Maura sobered first, thinking back on the evening they’d just had. “Jane, what made you talk to your mother? Please don’t mistake my meaning, I’m thrilled that you did. But you were so worried before they arrived, I just don’t follow how you got from almost panicked to hugging your mother goodbye.”

Jane stared into space in contemplation for a minute before answering seriously. “I was terrified before they arrived, because I wasn’t sure. I knew I didn’t want to hurt them, I knew they hadn’t done anything to me, I knew I didn’t need to be afraid of them, but I wasn’t sure I could stop myself hurting them. I had thought I could never hurt you, but then it happened. I just didn’t want anything like that to happen again.”

Maura tilted her head questioningly. “So what changed your mind? What made you face your fear and speak to her?”

Jane raised an eyebrow. “What, I couldn’t have just needed the salt?”

The disbelieving look she received made Jane chuckle. “Okay, no, I didn’t need the salt. I needed to just stop being afraid of myself and get on with things. I’ve been hiding here, hiding behind you, hiding behind everyone, and it was necessary at the start. I needed to hide. I wasn’t ready. But now, thanks to you and Susie I have my mind back, thanks to you and Nina I have my face back, thanks to you and Korsak I have my life back. It’s up to me to take advantage of all the help you’ve given me and just choose to live again.”

Maura smiled warmly. “That makes two of us. I’ve been hiding too, remember. Then I watched you transform yourself back into Jane Rizzoli. You never gave up, you never let what someone else had done to you win, and you never let me give up either. You inspired me to do better. It made me admit that I was letting my fear control me and decide to stop, which is why I’m going back to work tomorrow rather than staying here hidden away from the world.”

Jane smiled. “We really did it, huh? We took on the worst life could throw at us, and we won.”

Maura nodded in wholehearted agreement. “And we always will.”

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