She runs. Her bare feet slap quietly on the sidewalk. Her breath is loud, ragged. Even though she knows it’s scientifically impossible, she’s sure the stitch in her side has become an actual gaping wound. If her hands were free, she’d be compulsively feeling for blood running down her side.
Instead she just shifts the child she holds in her arms and keeps running, street after street, using any spare air to coo quietly, hoping the warm heavy mass in her arms stays asleep and quiet.
She’s been running for hours. She doesn’t know how much further she has to go, but she knows she can’t keep going much longer. She wonders, for probably the hundredth time, if she survived all that just to die on the street, an exhausted shell of what she’d been. But this time, just like the last ninety-nine times, the little nugget in her arms shifts and woofs softly into her neck, reminding her that failure isn’t an option.
She keeps running.
It’s 3:12am. The rookie on desk duty is snoozing behind the monitors. He’d picked up extra shifts these past few weeks, like everyone, and they’re catching up to him. His head is bobbing gently in his hands, images of his unpaid stack of bills dancing in and out of his brain, until the glass door to the precinct slams open, jarring him awake. To his credit, it’s still only a second or two before his hand is on his gun, but then he freezes, squatting halfway above his chair, his jaw sagging.
A ragged woman has just charged through the metal detector and is cowering, gasping for air, against the back wall of the lobby, one arm flung out to brace herself against the wall. She’s filthy, barefoot, dressed in what might once have been a pencil skirt and blouse. Her hair is matted and she’s left bloody footprints across the lobby. She shifts, and he realizes she is carrying a toddler across her chest.
Before he can speak, he realizes she’s trying to say something between heaving breaths.
“Get me the detective on the Rizzoli case. Quickly.”
The guard is looking at her like she’s a ghost. She wants to scream at him. She repeats herself as he stares, completely glazed over. “I need you to call a detective on the Rizzoli case immediately.” Nothing.
She wonders if he’s high or just incompetent.
“HEY.” She snaps, loudly. She hadn’t made it this far to be stuck in a lobby with an idiot. She’s running out of time. She quickly turns the child around in her arms, so the guard looks directly into a tiny sleeping face, surrounded by matted white blonde hair. “This is Kylie Rizzoli. Get me a detective right now.”
The guard snaps to attention, both alert and incredulous. “Did you– Kylie?”
“Yes,” she hisses back, as close to yelling as she’s willing to do this close to the child. “We’re running out of time, I need to see a detective right now.”
The guard nods. “Detective Rizzoli is here tonight. I’ll call her for you.”
She nods, then turns her attention to the child in her arms, her voice softening immediately. “Hey, Ky. Hey, tiny girl.” She bounces her up and down a little bit, and brushes the hair off her sweaty forehead. “It’s time to wake up now, tiny girl. I need you to wake up now, okay Ky?”
The little girl opens her eyes groggily, then closes them again. She grips the woman’s shirt in her tiny fist and tries to bury her face deep in the woman’s neck again. “Mo,” she mumbles.
“No, baby girl, it’s time to wake up. We’re safe now, tiny girl. You know who’s here to see you?”
The little girl blearily opens her eyes again, looking trustingly at the woman’s face.
“Your Auntie Jay is here, she’s coming to see you right now.”
A look of sleepy wonder comes over the child. “Aunnie Jay?” Her words are slurred, a combination of sleep and youth.
“Yes, tiny girl. She’s coming right now. So you need to wake up, okay? I’m gonna put you down, and we’re going to stand until Auntie Jay comes.” She sets the little girl down on her feet. She has little shoes on that light up when she hits the ground. They have Iron Man on them. They look out of place next to the woman’s bloody toes. She holds tight to the woman’s hand, sticking her free thumb directly into her mouth. She looks around the lobby, fear in her eyes.
“Aunnie Jay?” She asks, hesitantly.
“She’s coming, tiny girl.” The woman strokes the girl’s sweaty blonde hair, trying in vain to make it presentable with one hand. She feels naked without the child glued to her torso. She fleetingly wonders if she has a Kylie-shaped sweat stain on her shirt. In a weird way, she kind of hopes that she does. Something of yours to keep, sweet girl.
“The detective’s on her way down,” the guard announces. She’d already forgotten about him. She breathes out and sags just a little against the wall behind her, beginning to let herself believe for the first time that this might have worked.
“KYLIE?!?” A horse voice cries out the second a door across the lobby opens. “Kylie??”
Her only impression is of a grey suit, lanky elbows, and a mop of curly black hair before Kylie rips herself from her side and runs into the arms of the stranger. “Aunnie Jay! Aunnie Jay!” The stranger slides to her knees and presses the child to her like she’d been missing for year, babbling and crying and cupping her tiny head in her strong hand.
She just crouches there, holding the girl, for a long moment. Then her face comes up and the women lock eyes. In an instant the stranger is standing, Kylie shoved behind her legs, her gun out and pointed directly across the lobby at the woman’s head.
Maura shakily raises both her hands over her head, looking directly into the eyes of the second person to hold a gun to her head today. “You must be Auntie Jane,” she says weakly.
“Who the fuck are you and what the hell did you do to my niece.” Jane spits out the words, hard and fierce.
Maura raises her hands higher. “Please, don’t hurt me.”
Jane clicks her safety off and the sound absolutely terrifies Maura.
“Please. You don’t understand.”
“Oh, I fucking understand,” Jane snarls. She takes a step closer, now not more than eight feet from the woman. “I fucking understand everything.”
“Please.” Maura’s body is giving out. She slumps back against the wall, the effort of holding her arms up quickly moving from pain to agony. “Please.” How ironic, if Kylie’s aunt is the one to kill her, after all this.
And then, in a flash, a tiny figure darts out from behind Jane’s legs and runs directly into the line of fire. She attaches herself to Maura’s legs before either woman can stop her. “Mo,” she says, pulling on her skirt in a way that is clearly demanding to be picked up.
Maura shakily squats down, putting her face level with Kylie’s. She brings her hands down to cup Kylie’s face, but the harsh voice barks at her immediately.
“HANDS UP. BACK AWAY FROM HER. Kylie, come here.”
Maura raises her hands but has trouble standing back up. She fights her trembling muscles for a moment, then looks desperately up into Jane’s unforgiving eyes. “Please,” she whispers.
Kylie looks at her quizzically, cocking her head to the side. “Mo…has ouch?”
“Yes, sweetie,” Maura says softly, still down on Kylie’s level, tearing her eyes from Jane’s. “I have a little ouch, but I’m okay.” She’s lucky she hasn’t gotten hives from lying in nine long days. She’s far from okay, even if she doesn’t get shot right here in this lobby.
“Need kisses?” Kylie looks at Maura earnestly, reaching up to touch her face softly with her smooth little hand, seemingly searching for a cut or bruise to kiss.
Maura can’t help herself. She smiles at the goodness in this sweet little creature. “Thank you, tiny girl, but I’m okay. I need you to go over by Auntie Jay now, okay?”
Kylie gives Maura a look she’s come to know very well, knitting her brows together and crossing her arms over her tiny chest. “No.”
Before it can launch into a full-blown fight, another voice joins the chorus. “Jane?” Maura looks up to see a man in a suit standing behind Jane, his gun out and confusion all over his features. She manages to struggle to her feet as he says, “Jane, what’s going on?”
Kylie turns to look at him, and he blanches. “Kylie?”
Jane hasn’t lowered her gun or looked away from Maura for a second. “Frost, grab Kylie.” The man holsters his gun and comes forward, reaching down to scoop up the child, but she’s too fast for him.
She screams and dives behind Maura, trying to curl herself up into a ball. Maura is terrified of one of them shooting Kylie with all the commotion. “Please,” she says again, pleading, raising her hands in the air for the third time, feeling something rip under her skin. “She’s scared.”
Jane keeps her gun trained on Maura, but seems to understand. “Frost, cuff her and take her to interrogation. I’ll meet you there.”
Frost comes forward again. He reaches out to take Maura’s wrists, and even the guard standing fifteen feet away can see her flinch. She stands as still as she can as he cuffs her arms behind her back. She lets him steer her toward the elevator across the lobby, but stops in her tracks as Kylie screams again.
“Mo! Mo!” Maura turns to see Kylie squirming out of Jane’s arms. She breaks free and launches herself at Maura’s legs, chanting “Mo, Mo, Mo,” and sobbing.
“Shh, baby, shh.” Maura tries to comfort her, but it’s hard with her arms behind her back. She bends down to try to kiss Kylie’s head or whisper to her, but Jane rips the child away from her.
“Take her,” she snarls.
Maura’s muscles have given out again again, and Frost has to heave her to her feet. He silently leads her into the elevator, and they can hear Kylie’s voice fade from screams to plaintive cries as they rise above the second floor.
Maura leans her head against the elevator wall, too exhausted to cry.
They made it.