Prometheus: Chapter 49
A/N: Notes at the bottom. Lots of love to everyone and hope you're all staying safe.
Maura took her time washing the dishes. There was a dishwasher in the kitchen, but she had always enjoyed the catharsis of a two-compartment sink. It had frustrated Ian to no end, he couldn't understand why one would opt to take more time to do something than was absolutely necessary, but even he capitulated, after a time.
It had been over half an hour since Jane had left, presumably back to her room. The sun had risen fully in that time, shifting from the soft grey of winter morning to a warmer burnt orange. It shone through the Venetian blinds, highlighting the yellow wallpaper and beige counter tops just enough to remind Maura why 1920s New England design was not her preferred aesthetic.
Maura closed her eyes and curled her fingers around the edges of the sink, releasing a steadying breath. She had given Jane the space – how could she not – but the silence felt prickly and uncomfortable, and the knowledge of Jane being somewhere so close to her, presumably trying to unravel her own reality amidst the chaos of the last 48 hours, set Maura's teeth on edge. There was no mistaking that the fine line they had both been treading had been steadily blurring for days.
Maura's feelings for Jane were… most definitely complex, and the longer she warred with herself over them the more difficult it became.
From prisoner to patient to… what? What were they to each other now?
Maura's hand drifted absently to the tape on her neck, prodding the area a couple of times to test the feel of it.
"God, I said if we'd met in another life… Please, please stay long enough."
Her eyes slid closed.
No, what she felt around Jane… for Jane, was undeniable.
The soft click of the front door closing tugged Maura away from her own mind, long enough to register the digital clock on the oven.
The man was nothing, if not prompt.
Drying off a mug from the rack, she stepped over to the coffee maker and poured a cup, and smiled when Mitchell's clean-shaven face appeared in the doorway.
"That is military punctuality." She said, tone light and deliberately teasing. She held the cup out to him. "It's fresh."
Mitchell paused a moment, seemingly torn by the offer, but recovered quickly and stepped into the kitchen, thick leather gloves tucked under his elbow. He was wearing jeans this time, instead of the usual suit-and-tie Maura had come to expect from FBI agents, and combined with the white button-up shirt and winter jacket, gave him a softer edge.
"Navy, from the day I turned eighteen." He said, and when Maura noticed his eyes scanning the kitchen bench she reached behind her, producing a pot of sugar and placing it on the kitchen island in front of him. "Would have still been there if I hadn't broken my back." Taking the spoon and dropping two heaped piles of sugar into his cup, Maura counted exactly five stirs before he tapped the spoon five times on the edge of the ceramic and dropped the spoon beside it. He looked up at her as he took a sip. "This isn't a bad gig though."
Maura's diagnostic brain had already begun whirling at a hundred miles an hour, and she crossed her arms over her chest.
"Cervical fracture?" She asked, and the look of surprise on Mitchell's face was enough to confirm her hypothesis.
"Okay, you two need to stop doing that." Mitchell answered with an awkward chuckle, and Maura didn't miss the dual reference as he took a sip of his coffee. "Alright. Come on." He gestured at Maura. "I have to know."
Maura tilted her chin towards the kitchen island. "Your routine with the sugar. Five swirls, five taps." Maura re-enacted the motion with her left hand for effect. "You had to learn motor function again."
Mitchell raised an eyebrow. "I could have just had OCD." He said.
"Hmmm… yes, but-" She paused, before continuing. "That would have been picked up in your psychiatric evaluation, and back then, you wouldn't have served."
"Huh." Mitchell stared at her a moment, "It's starting to make sense now." At Maura's look of confusion Mitchell moved his arm out from his body, turning it in a lateral arc. "How you figured… this… all out."
The compliment was unexpected, and Maura immediately ducked her head, tucking the strands of hair that had fallen over her face behind her ears.
"It's only diagnostics." She said, straightening. "Asking the right questions."
Mitchell shook his head. "It's more than that. After yesterday-" he set his coffee mug back on the kitchen island. "I asked around." Pulling the gloves out from between his elbow and side he placed them next to the mug, palm flat on top of them a moment, before looking up again. "If it's true it's-"
"It's true." Maura said, very quickly, and she was surprised by the way Mitchell took a breath, pressed his lips together before letting them out again.
"Well then," He said. "That explains why we're all here then, doesn't it?" He shrugged. "-whoever it is we're still looking for… they know the threat you pose to them." He rotated the mug absently. "And they'd be right."
"And what threat is that?"
"Discovery." Mitchell answered, "Exposure. Not finishing what they started."
The words sent a chill worming up Maura's spine. Mitchell took another sip from his coffee, shifted his weight onto his right foot.
"Not exactly what you signed up for, huh?" He said, a tiny quirk to his lips.
Maura blew out a breath and shook her head, and there were so many layers of truth when she answered. "Not entirely."
A short, knowing silence settled between them for a moment, until Mitchell glanced over his shoulder.
"Is she around?"
Maura shook her head a second time. "No. She… needed a moment." She felt Mitchell's eyes follow her as she returned to the sink and picked up a plate to wipe dry.
"I'm sure she would. Coming back from that…" he suddenly paused, brow furrowing, and Maura thought she detected a hint of realization on his features as his right hand lifted to rub the back of his neck. "..trying to fit into the world again isn't easy."
"No, it isn't." Maura said, softly, the image of Jackson standing in his lounge room as clear as the day she saw him. "It's excruciating."
Mitchell looked like he had something more to say for several beats, before he blinked and took a step back, reaching for his gloves with one hand and coffee in the other.
"Yeah, well, I should head upstairs." He said. "Thanks for the coffee."
"Wait-" Maura called after him, and Mitchell paused in the doorway, turning around. "There's… someone I'd like to phone. If I can. An old friend."
"I haven't spoken with him in a year. He doesn't even know I've moved."
"Then what is so urgent about the call?"
"He's an ex marine." She said. "He ended up on my operating table. He-" She paused, careful to consider the truth she was prepared to share with a stranger. "-he had a hard time fitting in, too."
In the silence that followed, Maura watched as Mitchell considered her for a moment, narrowing his eyes and chewing on his inner cheek, before finally he breathed out a sigh and nodded.
"Come upstairs with me."
The attic was so triangular Maura felt an instant sense of geometric claustrophobia. There was no denying the space was outfitted for purpose; cubic workstations lined one side, a small kitchenette slotting into the other, deep enough into the design that even Maura imagined bending her head just to reach. A small refrigerator whirred beside the bench, a microwave oven almost as old as the house they were in sitting atop it. To the right of both, a tub of Folgers lies open, the handle of a small spoon sticking out of it.
"I can see why you prefer our kitchen." Maura said, earning a side glance from Mitchell that was followed by another soft chuckle. Maura shook her head. "Feel free to use it any time."
Mitchell moved around the space like he'd done it many times before, ducking in the right places and straightening in others, as he made is way to the end of the sequence of surveillance equipment lined along the wall. Lowering himself into a seat in front of a dual-screen setup that flashed to life as soon as he arrived, Mitchell reached down beside him and pulled two zip lock bags out of a case, laying them onto the table next to him.
Maura advanced further into the room, until she reached Mitchell's desk and the spare chair that sat to the left of it.
"Have a seat." He said, and Maura obliged, eyes falling to where her phone lay. Next to it, was a battered iPhone 5s, cracks spider-webbed across the entire front face. Mitchell glanced at it and shrugged. "I assume that one isn't yours."
Maura lowered herself down into the chair, reaching for the other bag and pulling it open, "I don't know," She said, dropping her phone into her hand and switching it on as Mitchell opened up a granola bar beside her. "The one I brought back from Africa looked pretty close to it."
Mitchell took a bite of the bar, chewing thoughtfully as Maura waited for her phone to power up.
"Africa?" He asked.
Relieved with both the three bars of reception and 65% battery remaining, Maura nodded.
"Doctors without Borders." She said, holding Mitchell's gaze when his eyes widened. "It gave me… a unique perspective of war. And people no-one care about."
Mitchell nodded, solemnly. "You met this marine there?"
"No." Maura leaned back in the chair. "At Northwestern, car accident." She flashed Mitchell a small smile. "Four tours in the middle east, and a body broken by a speeding SUV."
Mitchell made a noise of disbelief at the back of his throat and lifted his eyes to the ceiling.
"Wow." He said. "That would have been difficult for him."
"It was. I wasn't sure how much of what I saw was the tours or the accident." Shrugging, Maura lifted the phone and opened her contacts list, scrolling through. "In the end, I suppose it was a mix of both."
"You think he can help you? With Rizzoli?"
Maura sighed, tapping her fingertip next to Jackson's name.
"I'm not sure." She answered, truthfully. Because she wasn't. She wasn't sure. She only-
"She's lucky to have you." He said, quietly, and before Maura could respond he gestured with his chin at the phone in her hand. "Call your friend. It needs to be on speaker but… I'll-" He waved his hand vaguely in the air. "-I'll try not to listen."
"Well, this is a surprise." Maura could hear the smile curving around his words, and she found herself mirroring the action. "Long time no speak, Doc."
"It's Maura, Jackson." She corrected him despite knowing it was fruitless, and shifted in her chair. He had called her that even after the first time she had come to say goodbye.
And the second.
"I heard you moved. Some new adventure beckoned?"
"Something like that." Maura answered, wetting her lips. The back of her neck prickled with the anticipated look from Mitchell she refused to meet.
"Heyyyy-" Jackon's tone turned teasing. "Wait, am I on speaker?"
This time Maura did glance in Mitchell's direction, grateful for his apparent disinterest in the conversation, busy reviewing radio text and cctv footage. She looked back to her phone.
"I forgot my headphones." Which technically wasn't a lie….
"Needed to be hands free, huh?" He joked again, and this time Maura actually rolled her eyes.
"Get your mind out of the gutter, Tait." She shot back, chuckling. "Just tell me how the hell you are."
His answering laughter was light, and it filled Maura with a comfort she hadn't realised she had been missing.
"Good. Really good. Got a new job, a fiancé…"
"Jackson!" her eyes widened in surprise when she cut him off, and Mitchell shot her a look and raised eyebrow at the outburst. Maura grinned into the phone. "-I'm so happy for you. Who is she?"
"Her name is Emily, she was my PT."
The laugh that bubbled up was easy, refreshing. "Smooth, Jackson…" Maura said. "Let me guess-"
"I only asked her out after we were finished."
"At the last session?"
This time it was Jackson's turn to chuckle, a knowing thing that underlied years of journeying together. "Walked out the door, turned back around and went right back in."
"I wouldn't expect anything different."
"Yes, well, my first choice was taken, so…"
Maura rolled her eyes. "Stop it."
"How is Ian, anyway?"
And just like that the mood swung instantly, and Maura shifted on her seat. "He's…not in the picture any more."
"Oh… hey… Doc, I'm really sorry to hear that."
Maura shook her head before realizing Jackson couldn't see it. "It was a while ago." She said. "It was the right thing for both of us. Anyway-" Maura tested the conversational change, hoped Jackson would see behind it and let it go. "What is this new job you have?"
Jackson didn't disappoint, taking the shift in stride.
"I'm a security consultant at a small engineering firm." He said. "They're a small team so… familiar faces, and they're… really understanding when I'm… a little off."
Maura nodded. "How are you doing with all of that?"
There was a pause on the other end of the line, the briefest hint of a sigh, before Jackson spoke again.
"Sometimes with the wrong combination of things – noise, crowds, a car backfiring, helicopter, screeching tyres, that sort of thing… it gets a bit difficult, but-" He paused. "-It's much easier now. And Emily's great about it, too."
"She sounds like a good catch."
"The best." And his answer came so easily, so honestly, that Maura's smile softened.
"I'm sure you're good for her, too."
"Well, she said yes… so-" Jackson cleared his throat. "Come on, Doc. You didn't phone me to just to check up, surely?" He paused. "What's going on?"
Maura released a long breath. "You're right." She said. "Although, it's been… wonderful to hear how well you are doing, Jackson, truly."
"You've got another tragic on your table?"
Maura bit her lip at the word tragic, and pursed her lips.
"Someone very much like you, yes."
"Does he have my devilish good looks?"
So typically Jackson, Maura thought. And so she added a hint of emphasis when she answered,
"She does, yes."
"Ohhhh…." Jackson went silent. "There's something about this person that's got you, isn't there?"
Maura chanced a glance over her shoulder, to find Mitchell no longer behind her.
"Tell me about her."
Maura shook her head. "I can't – there's not much I can say, other than her reality – what she has been subjected to over the last five years – is, well, I suppose torture would be an appropriate comparison."
"Hm. Psychological or physical?"
Jackson hissed into the phone. "I swear, war has a lot to answer for." Maura didn't correct him "So, she is recovering now?"
"To an extent, yes."
"And how is she?"
Maura closed her eyes and sighed. "Extremely strong, extremely stubborn and very, very hurt." She opened her eyes again and looked up at the ceiling. "But despite it all, there's a light in her that… just hasn't been extinguished. And the more time I spend with her, the more I see it."
"You're allowed to care about her, you know."
"It's- It's not that." Maura shook her head, feeling the sharp edge of Mitchell's stare at her neck. "-There's a strength and resilience I've only seen once before."
Jackson scoffed, a little uncomfortably, and silence fell between them again, until finally he spoke.
"That night in my apartment." He said, his voice low to the point of being almost inaudible. "I've spent a long time thinking about whether or not I would have done it. If you hadn't-"
Maura's eyes slid closed again and a breath caught in her chest. She pinched the bridge of her nose.
"I know." She whispered.
"That single question took almost 6 months of therapy to resolve, by the way."
Maura only realised she had been pushing her fingertips against her closed eyes when she started to see spots behind her eyelids. She dropped her hand and opened her eyes, seeing Mitchell in her peripheral vision, standing behind his chair, head tilted and body angled slightly toward her.
"You saved my life."
Maura shook her head again. "Jackson, I-"
"Let me finish this, Maura." He cut her off, gently. "It's true you saved my life, It's true. But not that night."
'Jackson… Open the door'
"I wouldn't have followed through with it." Jackson continued. "That's what I worked out. I wouldn't have done it. That night was terrible, but it was also the catalyst for a lot of good things that would happen. Therapy, Emily…" He paused, and Maura began to feel a soft sting behind her eyes. "-Not because you were there that night, but because you pushed me every day, you encouraged me every day."
"You did it yourself, Jackson."
"No, I didn't. And I'm alright with that. It takes a village, and it takes more than one moment to change a person. It takes every moment. So, as for your friend…" He paused, and Maura swiped at her eyes, Mitchell's presence behind her the furthest thing from her mind. "If she's got you in her life, then she's got every chance. And if she means as much to you as it sounds- "
"-She saved my life. Twice." Maura spoke softly into the handset.
"Then I owe her." Jackson said. "And… she's earned the right to care about you, too."
Maura had given her phone back over to Mitchell wordlessly, and had been grateful when he didn't press as to the content – or context – of the conversation. There was something else in his eyes, however, when, after his offer of coffee she said she needed to be back downstairs, that Maura thought may have been a hint of acceptance.
The house was silent when she rounded the corner of the hallway into the living room. Jane must still have been in her room, and Maura didn't blame her. She had been forced over the years to eke out an existence in a confined space. Maura couldn't imagine the adjustment required, even to have freedom to move between carpeted rooms, the option of going outside –
Taking a deep breath, Maura allowed her fingertips to trail the back of the couch as she moved, carefully around the space. As equally as Jane's had expanded hers had contracted, and Maura found a subtle thrum of panic settle beneath her ribs. Having always had access to a laptop, or a phone, or something to pique her curiosity about the latest events, being without those felt somewhat confronting.
She glanced at the television, contemplating for a moment the idea of switching it to a discovery, or news channel (and no, she did not consider Fox to be one). But Maura had never been one to indulge in visual media for a long period of time.
Her eyes drifted to the old bookcase against the far wall, and before she had even realised she was moving towards it, scanning spines anywhere from decades, to years old. Slotted between Ian Fleming sat works of Tolkein, Stephen King and in one perfect example of literary juxtaposition; Terry Pratchett.
Maura wondered, absently, how a place like this accumulated so much literature.
Somewhere among the Harry Potter series Maura found her attention drawn to red writing on a white background, and the corner of her lips tilted into a small smile, fingers already reaching for it without a second thought.
It was a publication she had read several times; once that posed Maura more questions than it offered answers. The first time she had read it was the flight home from Sudan, when it had first been released in English and she had been desperate to make sense of the horror she had witnessed at every level of humanity.
The last time, was the week after Jackson landed in her ER.
Through the blinds to her left Maura saw the soft sunlight that had settled on the porch. Book tucked by her side, she approached the back door, turning Jackson's words over in her mind.
'She's earned the right to care about you, too.'
Maura pushed the door open carefully, drawing the cool of the morning air into her lungs, tinged with the smell of log fires and browning leaves. To her left was a small wire bench seat complete with long, dated cushion that ran the length of it, fastened to the frame at each corner. Slung across the back was an equally old navy and red checked quilt, that, on closer inspection appeared to be recently washed. At both ends were sizeable pillows, brown with orange pumpkins dotted across the print.
Clearly nobody was winning any design awards for the way it had been set up, yet it was a fairly temperate day considering the season, and Maura appreciated the way the sunlight warmed her face and skin.
Curling into the seat she draped the quilt over her knees, opening the book and resting against her thighs as she ran a hand through her hair.
Was that the problem?
Was she so concerned about caring for Jane, that she had created a space where reciprocation was impossible? Was their dynamic so imbalanced that Maura's actions alone were the only ones that counted?
She shoved the thought aside with a brisk turn of the page.
It was well into the afternoon, 300 pages in and after the sun had travelled all the way across the yard that Maura felt the first real prickle of winter chill beneath the quilt.
She closed the book between her knees, moving her body gingerly (somewhere along the way, she wondered if she may have fallen asleep), muscles creaking with disuse having being twisted into an outdoor-seat shape.
Her stomach protested her lack of attention, which was, in itself unusual as Maura was more than well-accustomed to spending over 12 hours without eating while at work. Perhaps the slower pace left her body with nothing to distract it.
Standing, Maura folded the quilt carefully over the back of the patio seat, rolled her shoulders and dipped her head left and right, gingerly working within the confines of the gauze against her skin. Making her way back to the door Maura's thoughts turned to the woman inside, and she found herself wondering if Jane intended to stay in her room at all today.
Despite it being well within Jane's rights, Maura couldn't help but accept a small amount of disappointment at the idea.
But the moment she opened the back door, Maura saw the faint light spilling onto the carpet, heard the shuffling of utensils from the kitchen. Something stirred immediately within her, and she moved forward through the room, making sure to offer up enough noise so as not to take Jane by surprise when she entered.
The sight when she did, made Maura smile despite herself.
Jane was hunched over a chopping board, having changed into what Maura guessed were some of the clothes Angela had left for her. They were simple; a white tshirt with 'Boston Police Academy' in navy lettering down its the left side, and a pair of worn navy sweatpants. Draped over the back of the chair was her hoodie. To her right, on the stove was a pot of water, and next to it a packet of pasta, half-open.
Maura had missed her.
"Hi." She said, softly.
When Jane didn't answer, didn't so much as acknowledge Maura's presence, Maura stepped further inside the kitchen, concern rising in her stomach yet keeping a few feet between them, eyes lowering to where Jane's left hand was gripped around a knife, a garlic clove carefully pinched between the fingers of her right hand.
Both were shaking.
"Jane." Maura whispered, then with barely a second thought she stepped further forward until she was directly in Jane's space, her palm falling over Jane's and stilling it.
"Here, let me."
The knife dropped to the board, and Jane stepped suddenly away, head bowed as her hands fell to her sides, defeat written on her face. But Maura moved in front of her, took Jane's left hand in both of her own. Despite the warmth of the house it was cold to the touch, and clammy with exertion.
"No." Maura said softly, shaking her head. "Hey, that's not what I mean."
Jane didn't look up when Maura pressed her thumb into her palm, but Maura felt the tiny flinch as she worked across the muscle at the juncture of Jane's palm and fingers, before sliding down to the heel and then back again. The muscles were tight, and as Maura gently flexed Jane's fingers inward and outward once, twice, and three times, all while pressing her free thumb into the space just above Jane's wrist, she imagined the coil of the muscles around the scars; how Jane's body had reacted and adapted to the damage.
And that had been it, hadn't it?
Jane's posture, her words, her actions and her defenses, were all built around the trauma of what she had seen, what she had believed she had done.
Cradling the back of Jane's left hand in hers, Maura pressed her lips together, before working her fingers higher, up the inside of Jane's forearm and to the left of the crook of her elbow. Jane flinched again, her head snapping upward and eyes locking on Maura's, a soft vulnerability flickering in them as Maura silently drew a line with her thumb up and down, pressure increasing little by little each time until the hand in hers began to warm.
No, Maura thought. Not every trauma was so easily identified, and sometimes, the treatment lay further from the source than one might think.
Jane didn't look away when Maura slowed her movements, stopped, then placed her fore and middle finger together in Jane's palm, tilting her head.
The fingers that closed around Maura's were strong, and steady, and when they tightened a fraction beyond Maura's comfort her smile grew, because the uncertainty in Jane's eyes was gone, replaced by that same intensity Maura had come to crave.
And suddenly, she found the fingers of her free hand reaching out to bunch in the hem of Jane's t-shirt, curling around the 'Y' that rested at her hipbone.
Jane surged forward, and for only the second time Maura understood the force of Jane's lips on hers, as Jane's hand cupped the back of Maura's head, fingers slipping into her hair. But she knew this time there was no pretext, no rush, no impetus to stop. A strange sort of vertigo hit Maura and she felt herself sway closer into Jane's space, her chest unlocking an inhale as her lips parted, and Jane's tongue scraped hungrily across her teeth. She felt the tiny moan build at the back of her throat and her hand flew up to latch on Jane's right shoulder blade, bringing their bodies impossibly closer so that even when they broke apart to change angle, there was barely enough room to breathe.
The feeling was overwhelming almost to bursting, and without breaking the kiss Jane's other hand moved to cup Maura's jaw, and Maura gripped Jane's waist to hold herself steady as heat exploded like a furnace from the pit of her stomach, up and down her body in equal measures. Jane's mouth was warm and pliant against Maura's tongue and tasted of second chances, and hope.
Maura chanced to open her eyes, and finding Jane's fully closed, brow free of burden was enough for her to sink her teeth gently into Jane's lower lip, and Maura felt Jane's sharp inhale, the flex of Jane's fingers in her hair, the way they curled around and pulled. Her hand slid down Jane's side, gripping hard and dragging her hips flush against hers as she shifted them closer to the kitchen island. Jane's legs were parted just enough for Maura's thigh to slip between them and-
Maura's eyes slammed shut again, tasting the hiss on Jane's breath, into Maura's hair and eased her away from her mouth, dropping her head so their foreheads touched, both struggling for air.
"Maura." Jane whispered, but Maura reached up, pressed a finger to Jane's lips and chased it with another kiss, a soft acceptance. This time, Jane melted gently into it, and Maura pulled Jane's top lip between hers, tongue grazing ever so slightly.
"I'm not sorry." She answered against Jane's lips, grazing against the softness there, her eyes still closed as the air simmered around them and the urgency of moments ago melted away. Jane sighed into Maura's mouth, kissed her again, and shook her head.
"I don't know what to do." She said, her fingers drifting down the nape of Maura's neck, making her shiver. "With this. With you."
Their lips met again, and again, and Maura could feel the slight tremor return to Jane's hand as she blindly mapped the skin of Maura's cheeks, ears, and the column of her neck, tracing her mouth between kisses.
So gentle. Even after everything, so gentle.
It filled Maura's heart to the brim.
Maura reached up, taking Jane's hand in hers and bringing it to her lips, pressing a kiss to Jane's palm before linking their fingers together. Finally, she opened her eyes to Jane before her, hair tousled and wild about her shoulders, a soft flush on her cheeks, searching Maura's face as if looking for answers Maura didn't know how to give.
"Beautiful." Maura breathed, before she could stop herself. "You're beautiful, Jane."
When Jane made a pained noise at the back of her throat and lowered her head, ears suddenly reddening, Maura squeezed her hand.
"It's alright," She said, the thumb of her free hand brushing a pattern down the side of Jane's waist above her t-shirt, to the band of her sweatpants and back up again. "We don't need to have all the answers now."
"Maura." Jane's voice faded into a quiet rasp at the edge of the second syllable, and her right hand landed on top of Maura's by her hip. "I'm still-" She paused, turned her head away, brow furrowed. "-How could you even want-"
"Hey. Jane." Maura slid her hand out from underneath Jane's, pressing gently her cheek as she ducked her head to Jane's eyeline. "Look at me."
It took several seconds, and Maura was uncertain what she would find when Jane did, but slowly, she looked back to her, fingers squeezing around Maura's as their eyes locked again.
"Do you have any idea how easy it is for me to-" Jane stopped herself, pressed her lips together and shook her head. "I told you how dangerous hope is, but here you are and I'm-" She paused. "I'm just-"
"Jane." Maura murmured, daring to comb her fingers back through Jane's hair, warmth spreading through her entire body when Jane's eyes slid closed in response. Carefully, Maura moved their entwined fingers until Jane's rested against her hip, smiling when Jane's hand shifted around her waist, coming to rest with an almost possessive pressure against Maura's lower back that edged their bodies closer again. "You deserve to care about someone."
Feeling Jane's sharp inhale at the words, Maura slid her own palm carefully down to the juncture between Jane's neck and shoulder, chasing the heartbeat beneath her skin. Maura ran her thumb over Jane's pulse-point, and this time, when she imagined her lips tracing the same path Maura didn't attempt to shove the thought away.
Instead, she smiled, the fingers of her free hand tangling again in the opposite hem of Jane's t-shirt.
"-And…. you deserve for them to care about you in return."
Jane opened her eyes, and this time, Maura fell so resolutely into their intensity she almost forgot to breathe.
"Someone?" Jane whispered.
Maura leaned forward and tugged Jane toward her in one motion, until their noses brushed and breath mingled, and Jane's fingers flexed against Maura's back.
A/N: Imagine my surprise when my posting routine was consistent enough I thought I could bank on it... until I was thrown into two weeks' quarantine on the other side of the country and subsequently six of the most intense working weeks of my career (and I have a pretty intense ordinary working week so that's saying something).
Anyway, here's 5.6k words. No unsolicited promises of timelines or future chapters because I've broken enough promises already. Just... thank you to all the kind words being thrown my way especially recently. it's meant a lot.
Also. I threw this chapter a couple of people's way in advance, because they've been reading since day one and I wanted their honest opinion of how it looked. I changed a whole lot thanks to their feedback. So, to those of you who challenged me (you know who you are), thank you. I think this we're going to end up with something far more true to the story this way.