Jane looked unimpressed as Maura unpacked her paints and brushes, but Maura was used to being underappreciated by Jane by now. There was something comfortable about the banter, about the way Maura's pinky fitted in Jane's collarbone, the way Jane didn't mind when Maura's fingers gently dragged the sleeve of Jane's singlet down her arm to access her shoulderblade. There was something comforting about the motion of the paintbrush, Jane's steady breaths shifting her chest. Maura was hypnotised. She'd already been enamoured of Jane's impressive musculature, and it was rare - especially since Maura had been kidnapped - that Jane would let her study her like this. Not that she was, it was just a fortunate side effect of Jane needing a tattoo.
Maura could feel the rift between them, had felt it for a while. It hurt; it hurt more than being kidnapped and held hostage as a pawn for one of Jane's enemies - and Jane had so many enemies. There was always going to be another Hoyt, another Alice, another Dereck. And for Maura, always another Dennis, another serial killer waiting for her naivety to seduce her. Perhaps Jane thought this distance was keeping Maura safe, but the fact remained that anyone who was anyone knew the way to get to Jane was through Maura, and the way to get to Maura was through Jane. Frank knew it, Paddy knew it, hell even Hope and Constance and Arthur knew it. The last three had just been after advice on how to get Maura to connect with them, but still. Maybe Jane was just trying to do the best for Maura, but Maura had missed this. It felt like they were never alone any more; Angela at Maura's, Jane at Frankie's. They never went to The Dirty Robber, and when they did half of their work was taking advantage of the friends and family discount. They never got a table to themselves, they never got time to themselves. And it hurt Maura. She had no idea if it hurt Jane, because she never could read her.
Jane looked over, puzzled by Maura's silence. Maura's face was scrunched in concentration, moving Jane's singlet sleeve again. Jane felt her face shift into a smile when she realised she was unobserved. She relaxed, and Maura tsked at her, dabbing at Jane's skin quickly to remove the mistake.
"Are you nervous?" Maura asked, regaining her focus. She'd wanted to try out this technique for years, and she had a worse tableside manner than her bedside manner. It would be a good secondary career, when the fieldwork of her job got to be too much for her aging body. She'd planned to go into publishing in science journals, or her own work, but if she was in a job without Jane, she would get lonely very fast. Hell, she was already lonely.
"No, you did actual time, remember?" Jane smiled at Maura. Maura did remember, the fear, the confusion, the lost memory, the certainty that she could have killed a man who'd tried to assault her. But also the memory of Jane coming in, fierce and protective, standing over the other criminals, intimidating and gorgeous in her anger. "This is just an undercover operation. I've done lots of those."
"Not in prisons though," Maura pointed out. "If anyone finds out you're a Detective, they're going to be very violent."
"I can take anyone," Jane scoffed, flexing her biceps, and Maura watched the muscles dance under that smooth skin. She dragged Jane's arm back and kept painting. Whatever was going on with Jane, at least she had this. At least she still had this.
Jane called from jail. Maura listened to her, filled with worry, examining her life, finding out where Jane had carefully disentangled herself. Was it something Maura had done? Something she'd said? Had she been too needy after the kidnapping, had that put Jane off? She missed her. She had friends now, in the way she hadn't before she met Jane, and she had more family than she knew what to do with. She shouldn't be lonely. And yet she was. Jane had been her everything for so long. Maybe it had been Jack, maybe Jane hadn't liked him after all. Maybe Susie's death had brought home how close to death any of them were in their line of work.
Even thinking about Susie made Maura sad again. Jane used to be able to sense it, would be around in half an hour with a pizza and a strong arm to wrap around Maura. But now it was Angela, both of them watching the door for a Jane that never came. When Jane moved in for a while, Maura had been thrilled, but the proximity to Angela was merely an excuse to get away as fast as she could.
Maybe there was a major flaw in Maura that Jane had finally noticed, the flaw that everyone else had already known about, that had made them avoid her. But Angela still loved Maura, at least. And her family, such as it was, all called in frequently in a way Maura hadn't been used to. If Maura let her, Hope would hold her for hours. Angela too. Even Cailin gave her hugs when they saw each other, even at her graduation from BCU. Other people had finally seen whatever Jane had seen in Maura, and Jane had lost sight of it somehow.
"I'll be out soon," Jane's voice sounded concerned. "You don't need to cry."
"I miss you," Maura said. "Not just now. All the time."
"I haven't gone anywhere," Jane said, then looked around at the prison walls around her. "Well, I have right now. But not really."
"You know what I mean," Maura said, and her voice had a dangerous edge to it; Jane knew she'd been called out.
"Not now, ok? When I get out."
"If you get out," Maura said bitterly, hanging up without saying goodbye. Why should she bother, when Jane clearly didn't?
The knock on the door was tentative; probably Hope. Maura answered, a sheepish Jane on the other side. Maura left the door open, walking away without bothering to greet her.
"Ma already gave me the casket routine, ok?" Jane said, coming in and closing the door behind her. Maura shrugged, picking up her wine and fixing an intense stare at Jane, who flinched. Maura knew she'd taken down the big guns at the jail, knew Jane could probably take her in a fight, yet she couldn't meet Maura's eyes. "Alice threw me, ok?" Jane said finally, sitting at the counter. "She could see... and apparently everyone could see... as long as we're friends, I'm putting you in danger. People use you to get to me, and it gets to me. I'd rather you be safe than..."
"And you didn't think to tell me any of this?" Maura asked, her voice dangerously calm. "Or did you just assume I was too socially inept to notice you withdrawing from my life after you spend years working your way in."
"I thought it was safer. For you. And you've been busy. With your lectures and your classes. I didn't think you'd notice." Jane sighed. "I missed you," she said finally, quietly. "So much. And I knew you'd let me stay here, and I couldn't. I couldn't put you in any more danger. I have a target on my back. But maybe I won't much longer. I'm talking to the FBI. A teaching job." jane shrugged.
"You'd leave Boston?" Maura asked, her brow furrowing. Jane shrugged again.
"It'd keep you and Ma safe. Frankie and Tommy too. No one would come after you to get to me."
Maura laughed incredulously. "I'm still the daughter of one of the most notorious mob bosses Boston has ever seen. Paddy jokes that you're on his payroll. He's hired people, you know. Since you haven't been around. There's a car down the street. I'm being watched by the mob, Jane. My life isn't dangerous just because of you."
"But it's more dangerous because of me," Jane said, and Maura shrugged.
"I've never minded," Maura said.
"You had a bad time when you were kidnapped," Jane said. "You still are. I don't want to put you through that again."
"You didn't do anything. She was fixated on you for her own reasons."
"I turned her down. In the academy," Jane said finally. "That's why she targeted you. From the outside, it looked like..."
"What did it look like? What do we look like from the outside?" Maura asked, her jaw set. "Something terrible, if it made you run away."
"I didn't run... we look like a couple, ok? My Ma lives with you, our families are mixed up together, we're always together. Even Paddy said it."
"But we aren't," Maura clarified. "Is that why you've been avoiding me like a viral disease? It's hardly news - years ago we told Giovanni. You know that man can't keep his mouth shut."
"It felt more... real. When it came from someone who..."
"And? You know we're not, I know we're not, our families know we're not."
"Actually... Ma... and Paddy. And Hope, and Constance."
"Oh." Maura digested the new information. "I assume you got the information you wanted," Maura said after a few moments, sipping at her wine.
"Yeah, it went fine. We got the intel. I'm back out. I'm back here."
"But you're worried about the optics of our relationship?"
"Friendship," Jane corrected her. Maura's eyebrow raised and she shook her head.
"The door is that way," Maura said, sounding tired as she walked away, further into the house. Into the bedroom that used to be so familiar to Jane, that she hadn't been to in months.
"Wait," Jane called.
"Why, are you going to say anything interesting at all tonight?" Maura asked, her tone sharp.
"I don't care if people think we're in a relationship. I care that it makes you a target." Jane swallowed and took a step forward. "I care about you. I'm trying to do the right thing, but I don't know what that would be."
"It's not emotionally abandoning me," Maura said sternly, and Jane nodded, looking ashamed. "You had to know how much that would hurt me."
"I did," Jane agreed. "But not as much as it would hurt me if someone took you again. If someone used you to get at me. If someone hurt you because of me."
"So you hurt me instead? How does that make any sense, Jane?" Maura's voice was still cold, and she stood in a shadow. Jane had just gotten out of prison, yet she was more scared an uncertain of whatever this situation was.
"It doesn't," Jane admitted. She sighed. "Can I just say I'm sorry? Can you just... come here?" Jane's voice, low and husky, cracked a little on the last word, and Maura came back into the kitchen, setting her wine down on the counter. "Can I...?" Jane came forward and hugged Maura. "Ok? I'm stupid. You know that. That's why you loved me."
"Love," Maura corrected her. "I love you," Maura said, muffled against Jane's shoulder. "I miss you," she said quietly.
"I miss you too," Jane said, pressing a kiss against Maura's hair. "So much. Too much. More than I should. It wasn't so much what Alice thought. It was that she was right."
"But we're not -"
"But I wanted to be." Jane pulled away, biting at her lower lip. "And it wasn't fair on you, because you didn't know, and I couldn't tell you. And telling you would ruin everything, but it seemed like I already had ruined everything, so now you know. Now I've told you." Jane worried her lip a little more. "And I'll be gone soon, and you can have my family, and they'll love you better than I ever could. You'll be fine. I'll miss you. I'll always miss you. I'll always love you. But you'll be safe, so it's worth it."
"Not to me," Maura said. She sighed and pulled away. "I didn't like being kidnapped, but I hate everything that's happened since so much more. I hate you not being here. I hate not being with you."
"Me too," Jane admitted. "So, what do we do?" Jane asked. "I can't leave like this; this is miserable."
"And you were happy to, what? Nobly slink away with your love unspoken?"
"I don't like what your creative writing classes are doing to your vocabulary," Jane said. "But yeah, basically. So you wouldn't hate me."
"I could never hate you," Maura said, her voice finally softening. "And, well, a relationship takes two people, doesn't it?"
"It would," Jane said cautiously, and Maura reached up and released Jane's lower lip from the grip of her teeth.
"I don't want you to give yourself a laceration," Maura said, not moving her hand, letting her fingers run over Jane's lip. Jane shifted uncertainly, finally making a decision and stepping forward, lowering her mouth to Maura's. It had taken her 7 years to get here, and now that she finally was it felt surreal. Maura was more familiar to Jane than anyone was, but this was foreign - the taste of Maura, the softness of those lips, the satisfied little huff from Maura as she wrapped her arms around Jane. 7 years wasted on not making Maura breathless with want, 7 years of not pushing her back against the kitchen island, 7 years of not having Maura pressed against her, soft and willing. Jane pulled away.
"I missed you," Jane said, smiling a little uncertainly. Maura's eyes landed on the tattoo.
"I can help you exfoliate that if you'd like it to fade faster," Maura said, catching her breath.
"Nah, I kinda like it. I like being marked by you," Jane said, equally breathless.
"I mean, in the shower," Maura said. "With you. And me. In the shower. If you catch my drift."
"Oh. Oh! But um, you can repaint it later, if you want. I don't mind." Maura's hand wrapped around Jane's bicep, her fingers trailed up to Jane's face to cup her cheek as she leaned up to kiss her again.
"I don't think we'll have time tonight," Maura said, kissing her again. "Maybe later. Much later."