The first thing she's aware of is the blinding glint of morning light off blonde hair.
The second thing she's aware of is that her right leg really goddamn fucking hurts.
Watching your language, her mother scolds in her head.
Dead six days, and her mother's voice hasn't lost its aggrieved pitch.
"Fuck you, Ma," she mumbles, trying to close her eyes against the sunlight.
The voice is cheerful and delighted and scares the shit out of her. She jerks away reflexively, banging her leg against the dash in the process.
"Jesus Christ," she moans, as the pain sends a white-hot spike through her core. Then, "Ma, I'm already in hell."
"Actually, you're in the Midwest," the unbearably chipper voice informs her. "Missouri, to be precise. The 'Show Me' state."
"I really am in hell," she mumbles, forcing her eyes open.
The most beautiful women Jane has ever laid eyes on is behind the wheel. Jane is in the passenger seat, her leg...
Her right leg is...gone.
"It's not as bad as it looks," the driver says, chancing a quick glance off the road.
"Is my leg gone?" Jane demands.
"Not...gone," the woman argues, "just...amputated."
"I'm in hell with a lawyer," Jane mutters, gritting her teeth against a scream as she trie to move what's left of her leg.
"A medical examiner," she is informed. "Maura Isles. And I didn't amputate your leg, you did that yourself."
Jane tries to think back, to cast her mind past spiking pain and the soft, almost floral scent of Maura's hair, the first soft, clean thing she has come across in weeks. But all that she remembers is a blur of pain, of terror, of more pain...
"I was bitten," she recalls aloud. "One of the Walkers. Nothing else to do."
She remembers, now, the rotting fingers gripping her calf, the broken teeth sinking into her flesh. She remembers how she could almost feel the infection from the poison spreading in her blood. She remembers grabbing her hunting knife, the one that used to be her brother's; the bright, blinding pain as she brought it down beneath her knee.
"That's not entirely true," Maura points out. Her hands are at perfect ten-and-two position on the wheel, even though they are no other cars in sight, and in fact no road. "You could have let the virus kill you. You could have killed yourself. You could have--"
"I wasn't counting death as an option," Jane retorts.
Maura blinks. "That seems remarkably short-sighted of you."
"And how did you come into this?" Jane demands, too tired and sore for manners.
Maura smiles. "I saved your life."
"Specifically," Jane orders.
Maura sits up a little straighter, as though she is delivering a formal report. "I came upon you bleeding out from a self-inflicted leg wound, and I applied a makeshift tourniquet to staunch the flow." She gestures at the ragged edge of her linen tank top, the stretch of pale skin above her jeans. Jane blames the little flip in her stomach on the blood loss. "Our location wasn't safe, so I dragged you into the car and brought you with me."
"Well, thank you," Jane says at last.
Maura's lips do something else to Jane when she smiles. "You're welcome."
Jane is saved from analyzing the particulars of this sensation by a growl from up ahead. "Gun," she demands.
For the first time, the car weaves on the road. "I beg your pardon?"
"Gun," Jane repeats. "Give it to me, now, so I can shoot that Walker before his groaning brings his buddies."
"Oh!" Maura, apparently, is going to need some things broken down for her. "Backseat."
Instincts override blood loss: Jane cocks, loads, sights, and gets him through the window, right between the eyes. "Drive faster," she orders, letting her eyes drift shut.
"I didn't want to run through the gas too quickly," Mara says. "It's hard to come by these days."
"If you're waiting for a Texaco, sure," Jane mumbles. "You gotta siphon it from abandoned cars."
"But I don't have a siphon," Maura objects.
Jane makes an irritated sound she is fairly certain has never before escaped her lips. "With your mouth, Maura."
"That's incredibly dangerous," she is informed.
"So's life," Jane shoots back, slouching into the seat.
A pause. "Fine. Then we'll take turns."
Jane pretends to look out the window so Maura can't see her face. "Fine."
"You should drink some water," Maura says. "It'll help reverse the hypovolemia."
Jane unscrews the top on the bottle from the cup holder, letting the tepid liquid trickle down her parched throat. She's never tasted anything so good in her life.
Maura's fingers tap the wheel. "You should really have antibiotics."
Jane shrugs. "I'll be fine."
"Says the woman I found bleeding to death," Maura retorts. "I have a plan. According to the map, we're five hours east of a small regional hospital. It's probably been looted long ago, but I think it's our best shot."
Jane shifts uncomfortably. "I guess it wouldn't really help you if I died, after all the work you did to save me."
"It certainly wouldn't," Maura agrees. "I'd be in the car with a flesh-eating monster I strapped in myself."
Jane snorts. "There's that."
Maura reaches for her hand, and Jane's heart rattles in her rib cage. She doesn't pull away.
"I'm just checking your pulse," Maura says. "It's a little faster than I'd like...are you feeling any kind of stress?"
"Nah," Jane manages. "Just a regular day with one leg in a lawless wasteland roamed by hordes of the undead."
Maura smiles. "If it's any comfort, I have wine in the trunk."
"I'm more of a beer girl," Jane answers.
"Thank goodness I found you," Maura replies, her delicate brows lifting. "To save you from yourself and your terrible taste."
Jane sputters out a laugh. "Thank goodness," she echoes.