It had started out as a deep, burning ache, constantly there in the background but just about bearable. For the first two hours, the adrenaline rush from the collision, from the bullets flying, and from having to run for her life had taken care of it. Maura’s own bloody-minded stubbornness had gotten her through hours three and four.
Maura knew that she wasn’t going to get through hour five.
“Jane, I need…” Her voice trailed off as she saw Jane carefully negotiate the remains of a fallen tree and then increase her pace again. When Maura reached the tree, she laid her palm against the rough bark and used it simply to prop herself up. It wasn’t a large trunk—it barely came up to her thigh—but right at that moment it seemed an insurmountable hurdle. She swiped at the sweat chilling her face and sticking her hair to her forehead. Now that she was no longer moving, the pain was making her breath hitch and her stomach cramp. She suspected a fracture, something non-displaced or hairline, which might explain the vague locus of the discomfort and her continuing ability to weight-bear. She touched the area with her free hand, palpating gently and all but sobbing at the agony that flared.
Even through her clothing, she could feel the cold tension extending from a point just below her knee.
Terror brought with it absolute clarity: pain, paresthesia, pallor, pulselessness, poikilothermia. The five Ps of acute ischemia in a limb. Wishing that her memory wasn’t quite so eidetic, Maura ticked off three of them immediately, guessed that a fourth would be present, and knew that it was only a matter of time before she scored a perfect five out of five. In the dim light, she could just about see Jane ahead of her, walking more slowly but pointedly not coming back to help. Unable to risk raising her voice, Maura dug her fingers into the bark and somehow managed to haul herself over the trunk. Her injured leg hit the ground first and she smothered a whimper behind her fist. She didn’t care if the bad guys heard her, but there was no way she wanted Jane to.
Jane didn’t have a plan, and that annoyed her almost as much as the dark, the falling temperature, the men who had shot at them, the pain in her ribs, and the fact that Maura fucking refused to walk any faster. She was attempting to formulate a strategy for the hundredth time when a dull thud behind her made her spin around, gun aimed. She relaxed her stance as she realized it was only Maura finally climbing over the fallen tree. For a few seconds, Maura seemed winded; she stayed low, with her hand over her face, but by the time Jane had toyed with the idea of going back she could see Maura moving again. She waited, allowing her to close the gap between them but not to catch up completely. It was spiteful and petty, and outright dangerous, too, seeing as Jane carried the only gun. But just as Maura brought out the best in her on a good day, now the good days had turned to shit Jane was plumbing depths she had never known existed.
The rib that had snapped in the car-wreck bit into her nastily as she stopped and took a deep breath. They couldn’t continue like this, just wandering aimlessly further into the forest. If there was one thing Jane didn’t do, it was aimless. She pulled in another breath, letting the pain punish her. Maura was depending on her to get them to safety and all she could fucking think to do was run. They had no water, no food, one dead cell phone and one jacket between them. Western Massachusetts was a vast area and a location comprising ‘seven lakes’ wouldn’t exactly make it easy to organize search and rescue. That was, if anyone even got around to missing them. Jane raised an eyebrow at the thought. With her and Maura gone, it was more likely that Korsak, Frost, and her family were just enjoying the peace and quiet.
She looked up as the snap of twigs announced Maura’s gradual approach. When had she started to limp so badly? Jane didn’t wait to ask; she was already walking, and she could hear Maura’s off-balance steps as she tried to follow.
“C’mon, try to keep going, c’mon,” Jane said, unable to remember the last time she had spoken to her. Maura shook her head, close enough now that Jane could see the pallor of her face and how much she was obviously hurting.
“We haven’t seen them in hours,” Maura said. Then, as if the admission was costing her every last ounce of her dignity, “I need to stop.”
The flesh of Maura’s leg parted in a jagged line beneath the shard of glass. Jane cut as deeply as she dared, guessing at the length, and trying not to sever a nerve she couldn’t pronounce and wouldn’t have a hope in hell of recognizing or locating. Maura moaned, her expression twisting in distress, but she remained unconscious, which was all that enabled Jane to discard the glass and begin squeezing at the two incisions.
“Shit, oh shit.”
Thick, dark blood flooded onto her fingers.
“Jesus, Maura, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.”
She pulled her hands away, shaking them compulsively and watching more blood drip sluggishly into the dirt. Maura’s leg remained pale and corpse-like; whatever Jane had done, it hadn’t been enough. She forced herself to try again, blocking out the connection between the deadened limb that she had mutilated and the terrible keening noise that Maura was making.
“It’s okay, honey. Shh, it’s okay. Lie still.” Despite her urgent reassurances, Jane dared not stop. Blood continued to ooze from the gaping lacerations, soaking the ground and then gathering in large, congealed lumps. Her hands were so cold that an unexpected rush of heat across them made her jerk away as if she had been scalded. For a long moment, she could only stare at the fresh blood trickling down Maura’s shin.
She grabbed at her shirt, dabbing tentatively at the bleeding before realizing it was actually a good sign and mashing at the leg to encourage it a little more. How much was too much? Jane didn’t have a clue, but she noticed that Maura’s toes were no longer quite so purple, and when she touched her foot it felt warmer. Deciding to quit while she was ahead, she wrapped her shirt around the wounds, pulling it tight but hopefully not so tight that it stopped the restored blood flow circulating. When she was done, she rocked back unsteadily, inching away from Maura and folding her arms across her torso. Black blood was smeared all over her tank top, Maura’s fingers were twitching as if she was reaching out for someone, and Jane surprised the hell out of herself when she lost all semblance of self-control and started to cry like a baby.
Snot-streaked and still sniffling, Jane carefully eased her hands beneath Maura’s arms and dragged her onto a patch of dry ground. Maura muttered something indistinct, but she didn’t wake, and the muttering was soon drowned out by the sound of her teeth chattering. When Jane laid the back of her hand on Maura’s forehead, it felt damp with cold sweat. Without thinking, she shifted position, lifting Maura into her arms. It took mere seconds before the tension drained from Maura’s face and she settled into the warmth of Jane’s body.
Jane herself stayed rigid, unable to relax, her gun clasped in her fist. The forest was quiet around them. She could smell blood and pine needles and her own sweat, but beneath all that was Maura’s familiar scent: expensive shampoo and a subtle perfume that a specialist shop imported from France. Jane had teased her about it once, telling her it would never mask the stink of a decomp, and Maura had smiled enigmatically. ‘I don’t wear it for the corpses. I wear it for you, sweetheart,’ she had whispered, before kissing Jane thoroughly enough to prove her point.
Grief and shame made Jane pull Maura closer. How the fuck had they allowed themselves to break apart so completely that Maura would struggle to mask an injury for hours, and Jane wouldn’t even wonder what was wrong with her?
She wallowed in her own misery for a few minutes before realizing that sitting on her ass and feeling sorry for herself wasn’t going to help. She had to find a way out before she could fix everything else. She began to look around. The clearing they were in was too exposed; they needed somewhere to hide until Maura was strong enough to walk, because there was no way Jane was leaving her behind.
“C’mon, Maura.” Jane shifted her a little, trying to rouse her without frightening her. “It’s time to wake up.”
If she was being honest with herself, Maura didn’t have a clue what had just happened. One vague but lovely minute she had been comfortably nestled in Jane’s arms, and the next minute Korsak had rudely interrupted to ask whether she could walk.
“I can hop,” she told him, uncertain whether she could even stay standing until Jane splashed through what looked like a flash flood and wrapped an arm around her.
“Did it rain?” Confused, Maura raised her head.
Jane smiled warmly at her. “No, it didn’t rain,” she said. “Can you manage?”
“Think so.” Using Jane and Korsak as crutches, Maura took a faltering step. It hurt, but she felt Jane squeeze her hand in encouragement, and she took another.
“How far do we have to go?” she heard Jane ask Korsak in an undertone.
“Few minutes. I’m as close as I could get.”
“Just a few minutes,” Jane murmured to Maura, as if Korsak hadn’t spoken at all. Her voice was quiet and intimate. “Hold onto me.”
The satnav beeped three times before smugly announcing that the route had been calculated. From her position, cradling Maura in the back seat, Jane couldn’t see the ETA, but Korsak preempted her by reading it out.
“About an hour,” he said. “But I guess that’s at legal speeds.” He activated the beacon mounted on the car roof and tore out onto the access road. With one hand on the wheel, he used his other to rummage in a duffel bag. “Here, try to get her to drink something.”
Jane took the bottle of Gatorade he held out to her. “I don’t…” She shook her head. “I think she’s gonna need surgery.”
Korsak shot Jane a puzzled glance through his rearview mirror, but whatever he saw in her eyes was enough to stop him pressing her for details.
“She looks shocky to me,” he said. “Worry about surgery later.”
He was right; Maura looked awful. The weird, feverish delirium had been replaced by violent shivering and labored breathing. She stirred when Jane said her name, but her eyes were glassy and she was focusing with obvious difficulty.
“Here.” Jane raised the bottle to her lips. “Just a few sips.”
Still watching Jane, Maura swallowed the juice and grimaced at the taste.
“That bad, huh?”
“Worse,” Maura whispered.
Jane tugged at the blanket Korsak had found in his trunk, tucking it more tightly around her. It smelled of animal musk and was covered in the hair of rescued pets, but at least it was warm.
“Can you manage another sip?” Jane tilted the bottle again, careful not to choke her. “Good, that’s really good.”
The car swerved suddenly and Korsak unleashed a volley of curses toward an idiot driver and everyone in their immediate family. Maura’s face promptly lost what little color it had had.
“Will you still love me if I’m sick on you?” she asked Jane quietly.
Jane ran her hand through Maura’s damp hair, wondering whether Maura would remember any of this in the morning. “I think I’ll always love you,” she said.
Korsak had pre-alerted the Emergency Department at Springfield’s Mercy Medical Center and several members of staff were waiting in the ambulance bay as he pulled in. Startled by the sudden noise, Maura struggled briefly, but then her eyes rolled and her body went limp. The medical team quickly pulled her from Jane’s arms.
“Are you hurt?”
“No.” Jane answered distractedly, still staring at the doors through which Maura’s gurney had just disappeared.
“I think you should come with me, Miss—”
“Detective Rizzoli.” Jane shrugged away the hand that was reaching for her and clambered unaided from the car. The clumsy movement jarred her battered ribs, making her cling onto the car door.
“Where have they taken her?” she asked the medic who was hovering solicitously by her side.
He looked disappointed by her apparent unwillingness simply to collapse and make his job easier. “She’s gone into Trauma One.” He narrowed his eyes, seeming to consider a different approach. “You let me check you over and I’ll find out how she’s doing.”
Jane nodded as if giving his offer due consideration.
“You find out how she’s doing,” she said in the tone of a woman who routinely carried a deadly weapon and was not afraid to use it. “Then I’ll let you check me over.”
The medic licked his lips nervously. “Yeah. Yeah,” he stammered. “I guess that’ll be okay.”
Maura’s pulse rate was steady but just a little too fast. Jane could feel it throbbing beneath her fingertips where she held them to Maura’s wrist, and see it transformed into strange shapes and flickering numbers on the monitor at the side of the bed. Often, last thing at night, she would lean her head on Maura’s chest and listen to the reassuring beat: soft and slow as Maura drowsed, forceful and fast as soon as Jane’s hand glided lower. More than anything else over these past few weeks, Jane had missed being so close to Maura that she could count every time her heart beat.
The door to the hospital room opened and a nurse came in to replace an empty IV. She had taken down the transfusion and the antibiotics over an hour ago, and the doctors had been satisfied enough with Maura’s progress to leave only the saline and bicarb running. The bicarb was to prevent renal failure; Jane had asked the surgeon about it as soon as she read the label on the IV and then immediately found herself wishing that she hadn’t. The surgeon had explained in great detail before congratulating her on her ad hoc limb-saving surgery. Jane had still been trying to work out exactly how an arterial bleed in a leg could shut down Maura’s kidneys, and she hadn’t been too gracious in accepting his praise.
“How’s she doing?” she asked the nurse, who was busy fussing with a length of tangled tubing.
“Better.” The nurse laid the tubing straight and smiled at Jane. This wasn’t the first time Jane had asked her for an update. “Blood pressure is fine, urine output has picked up.” She chuckled as Jane pulled a face. “That’s a good thing, Detective, but yeah, maybe too much information, huh?”
“Maybe,” Jane conceded.
“She should be waking up properly in the next couple of hours, but she’s had a lot of trauma to deal with, so—”
“So let her rest,” Jane said.
“Exactly. Can I get you a drink?” The nurse collected her kit together. “Or any pain relief?” she added softly.
“No thanks, I’m good.” Jane had walked away from the collision with bruises, a broken rib, and a twisted right knee. Her only dose of Tylenol had worn off while Maura was still in surgery.
The nurse closed the door behind her and Jane shifted stiffly in her chair before taking Maura’s hand again.
“Take the damn pills, Jane.” Maura’s voice was hoarse, but she opened her eyes a crack and smiled at the same time Jane did.
“Hey there,” Jane said.
“Hey.” Maura held her gaze for a long moment before characteristically turning her head to assess her own vitals and medication.
“Your blood pressure is okay and you’re peeing plenty,” Jane supplied helpfully.
Maura’s smile broadened. “I’m not going to ask how you know that.”
“Sit in one of these for long enough and they’ll tell you anything.” Jane ran her fingers over the back of Maura’s hand. “You scared the hell out of me,” she said quietly.
“’m sorry.” Tears filled Maura’s eyes. “I’m so sorry for everything.”
“Not as sorry as I am.” Jane didn’t think there was penance enough for the guilt she was currently shouldering. “God, Maura, I missed you.”
Maura didn’t reply, but just pulled on Jane’s hand until Jane got the message and leaned over to kiss her.
“I missed you too,” Maura murmured as they parted. Her eyes were already drooping and Jane could see she was struggling to stay awake.
“Think we might have to reenact that apology in public,” Jane told her, which made her smile lazily.
“With the kiss?” she asked.
“Hmm, maybe let them get used to us being friends again first.”
“Probably a good idea.” Her words slurred, falling away with a sigh as she settled back to sleep.
Jane dimmed the bedside light, stretched her legs out in front of her, and finally allowed herself to rest.
No one had stayed for long. Frankie and Tommy had made excuses about watching the game, while Angela—beaming from ear to ear—had rushed off to do something unspecified but vitally important back at Jane’s apartment. She planted a huge, sloppy kiss on Jane’s cheek and gave her what looked like a wink before leaving.
Bemused, Jane turned and walked back into Maura’s living room.
“I swear my mom just winked at me,” she said.
Maura patted the space beside her on the sofa. “Your mother knows a lot more than you think she knows.”
“She does?” Jane sat down, careful to avoid jarring Maura’s leg. “How?” She did an abrupt double-take as the implications of Maura’s claim sank in. “Jesus, holy crap. You think she knows about us?”
“Probably.” Maura didn’t seem at all fazed by that. “She doesn’t miss much.”
“No, she doesn’t.” Jane shrugged, surprisingly sanguine about the idea now that she began to think about it. If Maura was right, it would certainly make life easier. Reluctant to dwell on the finer points in any detail, she put a hand on Maura’s good knee. “C’mon, hop-along, let’s get you out of those clothes.” She laughed as Maura gave her a suggestive look. “Yeah, like you’re gonna stay awake long enough for that…”
Jane eased herself between the fresh sheets with a shiver of pleasure. Her hot bath hadn’t completely gotten rid of her aches and pains, but it felt so good to be clean again and even better to be lying in bed beside Maura who, doped up on pain pills, still instinctively edged toward Jane and cuddled into her warmth.
“You okay?” Jane let strands of Maura’s newly washed hair cascade through her fingers.
“Mm, perfect,” Maura said. “Everything’s back to how it should be.”
The simplicity of her statement brought a lump to Jane’s throat. She shuffled down until her head rested on Maura’s chest, and she felt Maura place a hand on her cheek. Within minutes, the deep regularity of Maura’s breathing told Jane she had fallen asleep. Despite her own exhaustion, Jane didn’t want to sleep yet. She forced her heavy eyes open and began to count the beats of Maura’s heart.