Prometheus - Chapter 46
"We'll be outside. I'll-" Dean's voice barely registered in Maura's ears, her eyes focused to the other side of the room. "-someone will be back to brief you, but you've got thirty."
Maura felt the soft thunk of her bag being deposited by the entrance, felt the door close in a rush of air swirling between bitter and warm. The lethargy of earlier had completely dissolved, driven by the adrenaline of seeing her again.
Jane's eyes were focused on the door, even as Maura approached, and the part of her that knew why, was the same that bit back the temptation to think anything was okay; the stinging pain that shot through both her shoulders; the tingling down her spine that drew an invisible noose across her chest squeezed, tightened…
It wasn't okay
It wasn't okay
Maura stepped through the kitchen past an archway, noticing for the first time the way the room extended to the left; a fake fireplace, a coffee table framed by a two-seater couch, armchair and wide screen television. CBS News was playing on mute, an anchor Maura didn't recognize filling the screen next to a small thumbnail of riots in what looked to be… Turkey?
She had forgotten the last time she looked at the news.
She turned back to find Jane studying her; aware of her every movement, every action as if she was a thing to be categorized, or memorized, Maura was unsure.
The tingling as Maura approached the chair at the head of the table – adjacent to where Jane was seated – grew like a crescendo, her heart racing with the competing pressure of wanting to burst and implode at the same time.
"Hi Jane." She said, lowering herself down and cursing the wobble in her voice that accompanied the scratchiness in her throat. "It's-" Maura paused a moment, allowing herself a breath and time to exhale it properly without it turning into a hiccup, and smiled again. "-I'm really happy to see you here."
The size of the hoodie Jane was wearing meant her fingers reached out only past the second knuckle. They hadn't moved from where they were splayed either side of her body on the table, thumbs tucked underneath the polished wood. Ebony hair fell unruly around Jane's shoulders, and her eyes didn't dim even a fraction of uncertainty as they traveled across Maura's face, to her neck, to her-
"It's just a scratch." She said, willing herself to smile as she added- "I owe you my life, a second time."
But Jane only blinked, her lower lip drawing into her mouth before releasing.
"He's still alive?"
"In hospital, but in prison."
This time it was Jane's turn to nod, slowly; and Maura couldn't shake the troubling feeling of apprehension as the road Jane had yet to face stretched out before her, a twisting, dark thing with no clear destination.
"I hope it's every bit like Bedford." She ground out, then was silent for a few moments before a furrow pulled at her brow and she looked up, and Maura caught the conflict swirling through her eyes before she spoke again. "-was." She corrected, softly.
In any other circumstance Maura may have blushed at the compliment, but it only settled as a brief smile of thanks, her fingertips following a grain within the wood.
"How's your shoulder?" She asked after a beat, lifting her eyes again. "Do you want me to look at it?"
Jane turned to her right – as if in an afterthought the injury was even there – and shrugged.
"Nah it's doing alright." She answered, and Maura felt a strange sort of whiplash at the shift of tone. "Suzie took care of it."
She raised an eyebrow.
"Suzie huh? First name basis now?"
Perhaps it was a gamble, attempting to keep the conversation steered into this light-hearted territory, and Maura's worried the edge of her jacket for every second it took, until the small tilt grew on Jane's lips. It even reached Jane's eyes as well for a moment, before they dulled.
"Yeah, well." She said, the cadence of her voice lower. "She's alright."
Maura nodded. "She is."
Jane took a deep breath in through her nose, her fingers flexing, but still not shifting from their place on the table. Maura watched her gaze flit up to the television.
"I haven't watched the news in… in years." Jane trailed off, and this time the silence tipped heavy, reminding Maura how very close to the line they were skating, until Jane added- "The anchors haven't improved."
"I must admit I didn't recognize them either."
Her eyes shifted back to find a different anchor on the screen; hair perfectly gelled complete with savage side-part, a little too much foundation on his face. For the first time, Maura noticed the remote control perched at the opposite end of the table. She imagined Jane, alone in this space, seeking a distraction of something… and perhaps it was too loud. Perhaps it was too much.
The tape itched around Maura's neck, and as soon as she lifted a hand to scratch it Jane flinched in her seat. It was only a fraction, barely a second, but Maura noticed it instantly, and could tell Jane knew she had noticed
She saw the way Jane grimaced, her head lowering, her shoulders crowding around the loose tendrils of hair that framed her face.
"Don't, Jane." Maura said gently. "You have nothing to apologise for."
The muscles beneath Jane's jaw worked, grinding side to side. The air had shifted now, the levity gone; the delicate balance they had tried to maintain tipping away into free-fall. Maura took a deep breath and held it for several moments, her next confession settling white-hot in her veins as she stepped off the ledge.
"I would very much like to take your hand right now."
Maura had no expectation of Jane's reaction. Every other time they had been this close she had simply reached out, reassured her through the disbelief. Maura watched Jane's lips part through a quiet exhale, before pressing tightly together, her eyes squeezing shut.
Then slowly, Jane's eyes opened, her head lifted, and oh, Maura would never become tired of the intensity of that scrutiny... and she willed all of the reassurance she could into her expression, and pretended that it was only that.
"Would you let me do that, Jane?" She whispered.
Jane's eyes drifted to where Maura's hand had returned to the table, and as the empty seconds stretched on, Maura watched as the furrow of Jane's brow deepened, her breath shallowed out… and suddenly Maura felt her entire being swelling with guilt, because this was her indulgence, not Jane's.
Except Jane was looking up at her again, and this time Maura noticed the subtle twitch of the fingers of her left hand against the table surface.
Maura felt a lump forming in her throat, as she slid her right hand forward, never taking her eyes off the impossible stare in front of her, before turning her hand over. Warmth suddenly enclosed her palm, skin sliding against skin and the precious feel of a scar coming to rest under her thumb.
Jane didn't look away.
"Jane," Maura's voice was thick. "I promise I-" She paused, becoming aware too late of the moisture clinging to her eyelashes, her body's autonomous response to all the promises she wanted to offer… but feared she couldn't keep. Instead, she ran her thumb along all the skin she could reach, and smiled, a fragile, watery thing. "I'll do everything I can to protect you." She said forcing all the conviction into her words, "With everything I have."
Jane continued watching her for a long moment, before she finally spoke.
"Why… would you do that?" She asked, and if the question slipped a little too effortlessly between Maura's ribs, she wasn't going to bring attention to it. "Why would you risk that?"
Maura only shook her head, lifting their hands and leaning forward to press a gentle kiss to Jane's knuckles, holding her eyes.
The next words she chose carefully.
"Because you deserve a different life." She murmured. "You always have."
That crease appeared between Jane's eyebrows again, but this time Maura thought she felt the slightest press of fingers in response. She raised her free hand, covering Jane's and offering her another small smile.
The sudden sound of the front door swinging open sent a whole new set of events in motion.
Firstly, was the way Jane snatched her hand away from Maura and shot up in her seat so fast the chair teetered on the edge of falling against the wall. Second was the way Jane backed up against that same wall, fists clenched at her sides and shoulders rolled forward.
Maura was on her feet in a second, stepping around the table so she was on the opposite side to where Jane stood but putting her directly in Jane's line of sight. Her gut twisted at the familiarity of what she saw behind the dark eyes.
Maura didn't even need to turn around to know who had entered, and at her back she felt the movement stop.
"Hey, Jane it's alright." She said softly, holding out a hand, palm up. "Look at me. Remember what I promised you."
Jane's eyes flickered towards Maura for barely a second before darting back over her shoulder and holding.
"Jane." She repeated, her voice quieter this time. "I'm right here. He's just here to talk." She turned her head to the left, her eyes glancing into her periphery. "-Isn't that right, Agent?"
"I'm not here for long." Came the gruff answer, and it ricocheted off the walls, sending a slight shiver down Maura's spine.
Maura nodded, her eyes still on the woman in front of her, staring until Jane's attention turned back to her.
'Trust me.' She mouthed, two fingers of her right hand tapping across her heart. She raised her eyebrows and dipped her head, but never lost her focus. 'okay?'
It took a moment, and Jane's almost-nod would have been imperceptible to anyone but her, but Maura saw it and straightened, turning around slowly, face to face once again with Agent Dean.
He hadn't bothered to remove his full length coat, and the awkward angle it splayed the lapels of his suit jacket offset the perfect straightness of his black tie. He clutched a manila file in his right hand, and Maura's eyed it carefully, before looking back to him.
"Then you'll be fine if we all stand." Maura said, taking a step backward, putting him back in direct view of Jane but only slightly, her fingertips trailing the edges of the table.
Dean strode forward, and Maura caught the edge that hardened into Jane's posture without even having to look.
"Fine with me. Here-" Dean handed Maura the file in his hand, which she took with a question. The last file he gave-
Dean shook his head.
"-Your protective custody papers, given you're not… strictly in custody."
"Right." Maura glanced down at the file again. It felt thicker than she would have expected for… that.
"There's a tag everywhere you need to sign." He waved vaguely in its direction. "There'll be someone to pick it up tomorrow. But-" He added, holding out his hand, "-Right now I need to bag your phone."
Dean only raised an eyebrow.
"Really? Do you think we'd go to all this trouble and resource just for you to give away your location?"
Maura stared at him several moments, until with a frown, she dropped the file on the table, and reached into the pocket of her jacket and handed him her iPhone. Dean pulled an evidence bag from his pocket, flicked it open with what Maura deemed to be an unnecessary flourish, and placed the phone inside.
"Don't worry." He said, "It'll stay here. Under guard, of course." He turned to Jane, and Maura watched her freeze, and it took everything in her power not to want to step between them again. "No such luck for you, Rizzoli." He said. "For all intents and purposes you're still incarcerated." He made a show of looking around the space, his eyebrows raised. "Not bad, if you ask me."
"Dean…" Maura shot him a warning.
Dean only grunted and shrugged, shoving his hands into his coat pockets.
"To be clear-" He said, "-this isn't witness protection. There are no secret identities here. You're both here because there's a concern for the integrity of a federal case and it hinges on the both of you staying alive."
Maura's glare, for what it meant, was immaterial.
"There's no coming or going at least for the next five days." Dean continued. "There's a 24 hour federal detail watching the house. You have this floor." He tipped his head to his left. "The stairs down the corridor is the second level. It's will be occupied most of the day until the OIC hands over to external surveillance. He should be here in-" Dean glanced down at his watch "-the next two hours."
From her position between the two of them, Maura saw Jane's eyes dart to her right, down the corridor.
"The backyard is enclosed so you can go outside. But don't get any ideas-" Dean's eyes flicked back to Jane and it made the hairs on Maura's neck stand on edge. "-upstairs has a vantage point of every fence."
Maura scoffed and shook her head.
As if Jane would have anywhere to go.
Dean ignored her.
"Food wise, there are some basics in the pantry and in the refrigerator. If you want anything else, the OIC can order online for you or get delivery. Everything will be searched once it comes in." Finally, Dean looked back to Maura. "Your phone will remain with the OIC. You can look at it as often as you want, under supervision. And all responses will be vetted."
Maura grit her teeth. "So Anna Frost-"
"-knowns you're in the FBI's hands." Dean immediately answered. "And so does the board of corrections. Your job is safe."
He paused for a moment, and the silence felt like an ultimatum.
Maura looked to Jane, and she knew she had given up hearing, minutes ago.
Maura shook her head, and Dean gave a curt nod before turning around, crossing the empty living space to the front door. She followed directly after him, feeling a small sense of satisfaction at his look of surprise when her had slapped the door open as he tried to close it.
Dean stepped out, down the steps, then turned carefully, his expression impatient.
"-Not my scope, Dr Isles." He answered, blankly. "I'm protecting this case."
Maura's irritation almost swelled to bursting, but she held it back at the thought of the woman waiting inside.
"But the FBI owns her case."
Dean paused at the base of the stairs, and sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Maura, I can tell you. Once this case is resolved, the FBI will be happy to give Jane's case back to Boston." He took a step away from the house. "All the best, truly, Dr Isles." He said. "I hope not to be back again."
As Maura closed the door behind him, her fingers lingered on the doorknob long enough to release the tightness in her jaw and tension across her forehead.
She would need to get in contact with Anna, somehow, and that would take work. But with her phone with Dean's for now-
Maura glanced down at her bag and collection of Jane's clothes bundled beside it. She hesitated for a moment, deciding better than to bring it to Jane given… everything.
Making her way back into the living room, Maura's heart constricted when she saw the way Jane had sagged against the wall, hoodie bunched against her chest, her eyes still trained on the door.
And… something else settled there, that same small flame flickering between her ribs, that Maura wanted to know and deny in equal measures.
She slowed, returning to her place standing just behind the head of the table.
"He's gone." She said, quietly "I don't think he's coming back soon."
Jane's eyes fluttered shut and her head bowed, and it struck Maura as a response she hadn't seen before. She took another step forward unconsciously, her eyebrows twitching inward as she watched the woman in front of her drag her fingers against the wallpaper, force herself upright.
Open her eyes.
"I'm not-" She left what nagged at Maura as the word free hanging in the silence, and turned to her "-am I?"
"Jane.." Maura started.
"I know-" Jane cut Maura off, shaking her head, speaking with a gentleness that took that same flame in Maura's chest and added heat. "-what this is. And its-"
The words died, and Maura was propelled back to a time in the ISO ward…
…When Jane had used the word 'hope' as a weapon against herself.
But Maura wasn't about to let that be a weapon. Not here. Not with her and everything she knew to be true. And how could she deny-
'If you and I had met in a different lifetime'
"No Jane." Maura said, moving around the table for the first time, working herself slowly into Jane's space. "It's not what it is."
Maura was two feet from her; both of them standing between the table and the wall.
She held out her hand, and took a breath.
"Would you come outside with me?" Another half-step forward, eyes travelling over the slump of Jane's shoulders, the press of her body against the wall. "There's nobody here but us, alright?"
Jane turned her head, regarding Maura with such a sorrow she could barely stand it.
Maura stepped forward again. This time, she reached until her right hand was covering Jane's against the wall. She heard the tiny hitch in Jane's breath the moment they came in contact, and the sound dared Maura to curl her fingers around Jane's palm, dared to hold, dared to pull.
She watched the hesitation, watched the resistance, until Jane took a long, slow breath and tightened her hold, let herself be moved. Maura felt the decision in a spark of current all the way up her arm.
She felt the tender smile grow on her face all the way to the back door.
Maura pushed the door open, an icy breeze instantly seeping through the heating in the house, and when Maura wordlessly tugged Jane down the tiny stoop outside she realized a light snow had begun to fall among the neatly cropped hedges and lawn. They were barely a foot away from the last step, and Maura could feel the bite of the cold at her ankles, the way the moisture began to seep into her socks and through the mesh covering of her runners.
The chill was permeating, and for a moment Maura wondered if it had been such a good idea, bringing Jane out into the New England winter with only a hoodie and undershirt.
Until she finally turned around, and Maura's breath hitched at the sight of Jane, head tipped back, eyes closed, inhaling deeply as tiny snowflakes drifted onto her hair and eyelashes.
She watched as a tear slowly traced its way down Jane's left cheek.
Maura took a tiny step forward, slotting their fingers together in their hold.
"This isn't just hope, Jane." She said quietly, reaching up, touch featherlight, wiping the snowflakes that had settled on her forehead, giving in to the urge to tease the same melting snow from the wisps of Jane's hair.
She watched as Jane expelled a long breath into the air, a puff of steam that disappeared into the grey afternoon.
"And if it is?" Jane opened her eyes, so close to Maura now that in this light she could see the tiny variations in the irises she originally thought were completely black; but instead held flecks of gold and lighter brown, and Maura didn't miss the way they flicked downward before journeying up again. "What's left?"
"Me." Maura whispered, and she heard Jane's sharp intake of breath, saw the slight tremble in her lips as Jane stepped almost imperceptibly closer, lowering her forehead until it rested against Maura's, her eyes closing again. Maura's fingers drifted into Jane's hair, curving around the back of her head, holding her steady. "I'm here."
She tilted her head only slightly, just enough to change the angle so their noses brushed, and Maura could feel Jane's breath against her lips.
"Shhh." Maura raised her other hand, sliding it across Jane's cheek, her fingertip coming to rest on Jane's lower lip, dragging it down ever so gently. "I know."
"But-" The word came out hoarsely, and Maura felt it warm against her mouth, felt the tug on her jacket as Jane gripped it in her hands, pulling her closer.
And Maura smiled, tilting her head just enough that her lips would brush against the corner of Jane's, and she lowered her head, and lowered her hand, until it was pressed directly to the space over her heart.
The snow fell around them both.
"I know, Jane."
A/N: Hey everyone. After this long I have come So. Much. to appreciate the people who have stuck with this fic all the way. I have also learnt there are people frustrated with the lack-of-ending they seem to be getting. Which I understand, as truth be told my goal two months ago was to just finish the damn thing. So I promised only a few chapters left. It made people upset when those chapter numbers grew and maybe turned into a bit of an over-promise, under deliever. Reality was, when I looked at the way the last 45 chapters had evolved it didn't feel right to end it in two. I'm guilty of short chapters for the sake of posting story content, which, while it might feel irrelevant, becomes relevant when read as a whole.
My second note is, I'm not even remotely qualified to speak on emotional trauma to Jane's degree. I want to treat it with as much respect as I can, which is one of the major reasons the story is going longer than I originally intended. However, I acknowledge I may not get it perfectly. It is, after all, a slow burn fanfic and has a bit (=lot) of fancy in it. I'm trying to be careful. I don't want to disrespect anything or anyone.
Final note, if anything of the above offends you, please know it was never my intent. If the length of my story is such a problem you don't want to read, then thank you for reading up to now, but I accept we go our separate ways. Don't give me hate because I haven't finished. It's not cool.