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From his very comfortable half-slouch against the left arm of Maura's couch, Frankie contemplates hauling his ass up to retrieve his flannel shirt. He'd taken it off earlier in the evening, but now that Mom and Korsak were gone, Maura's central air was winning the day. But it's all the way across the room on the chair he'd been sitting in before, wedged underneath Jane now, and the distance seems insurmountable.

Besides, they're about halfway through The Boondock Saints and this is one of his favorite parts. So he lets it go.

Or, at least, he's about to—but then he glances over and catches Maura trying, and miserably failing, to hide a yawn behind one dainty hand. He's not sure if she's tired, bored, or some combination of the above, but Jane seems to know by the way she sighs. "Go to bed, Maura." Frankie's not even looking at her, but he can hear, in her voice, that she's rolling her eyes.

"Nonsense," Maura protests. "Yawns are simply—"

"A biological response to being tired," Jane finishes. "Go to bed. You've had a long day."

"Well, so have you," Maura argues.

"Maybe everyone should go to bed," Frankie interjects, rising from his spot on the couch. The air conditioning isn't enough to get him up, apparently, but Frick and Frack starting their music hall routine is.

"Jane, we have a guest. You can't just—"

He holds up a hand to stop Maura before she can really begin. "It's alright. I've been kicked out of better places than this." It really is okay. He'd only hung around after Mom and Korsak left at the end of the baseball game because Jane asked him to with a glance. He figured she wasn't ready then to go to bed, and needed the excuse to stay up. He was happy to provide it for as long as she needed it, but he knows she wouldn't be shy about telling him when to leave. In reality, he'd been waiting for this cue for about twenty minutes.

"I'm not tired," Jane insists. "Frankie's going to stay a little while longer, but I want you to go to bed, Maura. How are you going to wait on me hand and foot tomorrow if you don't get your beauty rest?"

Maura frowns, but Frankie knows Jane's won. "I hope you aren't laboring under the delusion that I'm about to turn into your maidservant."

Jane flashes her that winning grin, but even Frankie can see it doesn't meet her eyes. "Thanks, best friend."

Maura sighs and gets up, brushing imaginary crumbs from her skirt. "Frankie, don't let her stay up too late. She needs to rest—" she glares at Jane—"so her body can continue healing."

"You got it, doc."

He knows what's coming, once Maura leaves the room, but Jane draws out the anticipation simply by doing nothing for several long minutes. Just as Frankie's beginning to think he's read this situation all wrong, he glances over to find Jane's gaze fixated on the stairs. Moving a bit more slowly than usual, Jane levers herself out of her armchair and into the kitchen, where she goes straight to the fridge.

"Want another beer?" she asks, and it's only then he's sure she's decided Maura is not coming back downstairs. If she thought anyone was within earshot, she wouldn't have offered.

"I'm good," he says, but she comes back into the living room with two anyway. Typical. She doesn't try to hand one to him, though, just places them down on the coffee table.

He should have known they were just an excuse.

He's not surprised when she flops down on the couch with him. "Shove over, Frankie. God, how can someone so short take up so much damn room?" He knows he should grumble some kind of a comeback, but he's distracted by the way she's manhandling him, moving his limbs as she sees fit until he's sitting in the corner with his legs open. She uses him like a full-body pillow, reclining on his body so he cannot see her face. As if out of habit—or maybe instinct—his arms wrap around her and she settles further into his body.

He wonders if she can feel his heart beating. He feels strangely exposed, being like this somewhere other than Jane's apartment. She's never initiated this anywhere else, and the fact that she's doing so now, in her best friend's house with Maura only just upstairs, speaks to how much she truly needs it.

Careful not to jostle her, he leans in and kisses her temple, almost like he did just after arriving—but so much different at the same time—he lets his lips linger against her skin and she sighs the shuddering sigh of someone trying desperately to hold herself together.

He knows how she feels, he thinks.

It's not fair, he wants to say. It's going to be okay, he wants to say. But can he? Can he sit here and give her platitudes, comforting her with the words he's been telling himself for days—words that haven't helped?

This is not his pain to have, but it is within him, taking up residence in chest and filling to press heavy against his heart. Sometimes he thinks of it and it squeezes the air from his lungs. After she woke up in the hospital he did not want to visit without the buffer of a case, afraid to allow her to look into his eyes lest she see how hard this has hit him. On the surface it doesn't make sense—it wasn't his child. But it was a baby he was going to love and nurture, same as he does with Tommy Jr., and it's that loss that keeps him trapped in that horrible limbo between fury and grief.

This entire case enrages him, the senseless selfishness of it all. A man would rather have his wife killed than give her anything in the divorce. That's what started the chain of events that ended in three deaths, a teenager getting shot, his sister getting beaten within an inch of her life—and the loss of his niece or nephew.

Jane's voice is almost too loud over his thoughts. "Do you think things would be different if I didn't give my vest to Tasha?"

This isn't really a question for him—Maura would know. "She might have died of shock before the EMTs got there."

"It wasn't that much extra warmth."

"If you hadn't gotten to him in time, it might have stopped another bullet. We'll never know." He tries to picture Jane making the decision to keep her vest on, and finds that he can't. He understands as well as she does the pull to protect above all else. Every day they make the decision to endanger themselves for the sake of others, innocent bystanders who never got the same choice.

He knows the answer to the question he's about to ask—but he's not sure Jane does, or at least not consciously. He clears his throat. "If you knew what you knew now, would you do it differently?"

He feels her hand shift, and tilts his head enough to see that she's placed it over her abdomen. For a long pause there is complete silence, only the low murmur of voices from the television, then her shoulders slump back against him. "No."

What he's about to do is either exactly the right thing, or exactly the wrong thing, but Frankie feels helpless to take any other path. His hand comes up to cradle hers against her lower belly.

He only realizes, when she doesn't immediately shake his hand off, how much he'd been expecting her to. This nebulous and unspoken thing between them forever keeps him guessing. Or maybe it's just the way Jane is—Maura would be able to tell him.

"I might have given Korsak less grief about the vest," Jane says after another moment of reflection. "It was the right call to make."

"I'm surprised he didn't have you in one 24-7 after Ma spilled the beans," Frankie says, aiming for levity.

It backfires: Jane goes completely still against him. "Is that what everyone thinks, that I've been taking unnecessary risks?"

"Jane, come on. I didn't say that—nobody thinks that."

"But I should have left my vest on. I should have waited for backup before I went into the building, I should have—" But she can't hear him, he thinks. "Frankie, I wanted my baby." She twists to look at him, and the fear on her face is easily read. "I really did."

"I know, Janie," he soothes, and is embarrassed to feel tears forming in his eyes. "I'm your brother, huh? I know you." She nods, not breaking eye contact, and he looks into her dark brown eyes and reads all of her pain and fear and loneliness. He knows that, although she has spoken with both of them, she has not yet shown their mother or Maura the full extent of her grief. Just like every time she turns to him for comfort he feels woefully inadequate to carry the person who carries everyone else. How can he do anything but let her down? He feels his face start to burn, his eyes stinging—he chokes on his next words. "I'm so goddamn sorry."

To his utter horror, the tears he's been holding back for days start to run down his cheeks. He cups the back of Jane's head and forces her to look down, away from him, like if she's not watching him she won't realize what's happening. It's too late, of course, but he can't stop himself from trying. He frantically takes in air, deep heaving breaths to calm himself, but he know she can feel his chest rising and falling.

With the hand not holding Jane to him he covers his eyes, but more tears just take the place of the ones that he wipes away. He feels Jane wrapping her arms around him, squeezing tightly, and he starts to choke out an apology, furious with himself—why is it that she needs to comfort him? Why can't he hold it together long enough to be there for her? But then her fingernails dig into his back, like she's hanging on for dear life, and he realizes—

She needs this.

Her shuddering breaths from earlier return in full force. At some point her hands leaves his back to fist in the front of his shirt.

Finally, she looks up. Her face is dry, but she still looks wrecked. Frankie doesn't bother to hide his face anymore, knowing she accepts him unconditionally. That she needs him to share, even. Sure enough, one of her hands come up, and with a gentle thumb she brushes at the tear tracks on his face. "Frankie..." she murmurs, searching his face.

Taking care not to get too rough with her still-healing body, he puts a hand on either side of her torso and heaves, pulling her up his body so they're eye-to-eye for the first time in days. Less than thirty seconds pass in silence before she moves that extra inch to seal their lips together,

He pours his focus into expressing that which he does not have adequate words to say; he puts his sorrow and confusion and deep, aching empathy into the kiss. Her hands are on the side of his face like he's the only thing in the world keeping her grounded. He holds her as close as he thinks is safe, feeling her strong but eminently breakable body pressed alongside his as she kisses him within an inch of their lives.

Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he is aware that they're in Maura's house. If she were to come downstairs and find them... he can't even begin to fathom what would happen next. It would be the end of everything.

Ask him if he cares.

Spoiler alert: he does not.

"Frankie," she says again, between near-frantic kisses.

"I know," he says, although truly he has no idea. He knows that she needs him; he's finally beginning to understand how much he needed her, too. That's all he knows right now.

He does not realize he has moved his hand until it is tightening in her hair; not enough to hurt, but enough to hold. He kisses her again and again, allowing the rush of adrenaline and endorphins to wash away the weight of the past few days. Replacing it is only the weight of Jane's body, welcome and grounding. Until she takes his hand in hers, pulling it down until it's pressing against her thin lounge pants.

It's a dousing of cold water. He jerks his hand away.

"Frankie, please," she practically begs, voice cracking the way it always does when she pleads like that. It's not something he hears often—if he had his way, he never would. "I feel so... empty." The words seem to startle her as much as they do him, like she's only just identified the emotion, and she looks up at him with wide, scared eyes.

"I can't," he tells her gently. It's not that he doesn't want to. "I can't hurt you like that. Don't ask me to."

Her mouth flattens into a thin, hard line. (It is not the time to tell her how much she looks like their mother when she does that.) "I'm fine," she says finally. "I'm not in the hospital, right? Do you think they would have let me leave if I wasn't okay?"

"I have no idea," he says. "But I was there, remember? I saw what he did to you, I rode with you in the ambulance—for Christ's sake, Jane, I was the one who had to tell them that you were—to check on—" he breaks off, unwilling and unable to finish that sentence. But neither does he want to look at her right now, so he tips his head back on the throw pillow and stares at the ceiling until he feels he can speak without breaking down again. "You took a hell of a beating," he continues softly, finally looking at her again. "Even if you hadn't lost the baby—it's too soon, okay?"

And that's not what he said the first time, after Hoyt, but he'd been far loss in control of the situation then. So much has changed: it is clear she does not like his answer, but she accepts it, lowering herself down so her head is resting on his chest and she is fully cuddled up to him. He is not ashamed to say he clings to her, running his fingers through her dark hair. "Fine," she mumbles into his torso. He just smiles, content to hold her like this for the rest of the night if it's what she needs.

But maybe they can both have what they want.

"Hey," he says, nudging her a little. "Turn around. I got an idea."

"Turn around?" she asks, looking at him like she has no idea what he's talking about.

"Yeah, just shift so you're laying on me like you were before."

She complies, turning until her full body weight rests against him. She's not heavy, he thinks. She's my sister. "Happy now?"

"Delighted," he answers absently. He's more focused on his hands, lightly moving over her body in barely-there caresses. Soon that's what she focuses on too; he can feel the moment she relaxes fully, melting into his body. It's then that he brings one hand up to her breast and squeezes. Not hard.

She sighs, but a pleased one—he's glad of his ability to tell the difference, since he can't see her face. But he trusts her to stop him if she wants him to stop, so he grabs a piece of her t-shirt and tugs, pulling it free from her slacks. The newly-exposed skin of her abdomen is warm and soft as he glides his hand along it, flattening his fingers to slip just beneath the waistband of her pants.

She makes a quiet noise of approval and wiggles her hips like she's trying to settle more firmly against him. Perhaps she just wants to feel the hardness he is doing nothing to conceal.

"Want to untie those?" he murmurs, lips close to her ear.

He's got to give her credit—Jane was always a quick study. Not only does she listen to him, she goes a step further and works them down off her hips, out of his way. Her panties she does not touch, but that's okay. Kind of hot actually, he thinks, as he slips a hand down the front of them to find the damp curls of pubic hair. He did this, he thinks inanely—he turned her on, made her wet for him. She's turning to him; she wants him to fill the emptiness inside her. She is trusting him with something she has not spoken to anyone else about.

Using his index and ring fingers, he parts the lips of her outer labia, allowing his middle finger to stroke down into the wetness waiting for him. For the moment he avoids her clit, rubbing the pad of his finger back and forth between it and her opening. He circles her opening but does not slide his finger inside the way he probably would any other day—that's not what this is about. He needs to show her that he cares without hurting her.

She whimpers when he slides his finger away, clearly having expected him to fuck her with it. But she makes another, more satisfied noise when he reaches her clitoris, gently rubbing back and forth. Her head tips back against his chest as she squirms, just a little, against him. A thought occurs to him and he stops moving, holding his finger in place. As expected, she keeps moving, trying to replace the pressure he has let up with. He presses a kiss to her temple and says, "Slow down."

"No," she mutters, so he gives in—as if he could really deny her anything—and begins moving his finger in slow, deliberate circles around her clit. Her breathing comes shorter now, in near-pants that have him worried for a moment that he's hurting her—until he realizes she's chanting yes, yes yes under her breath.

Never let it be said that Frankie does not follow orders. He keeps going with the rhythm he has set, trying desperately not to grind his hips into her lower back—but it's hard, it's so hard, she's writhing against him like nobody's ever done this to her before. Maybe nobody has, and if that's true then he's proud to be her first, but he wants to fuck her so bad. Her labia is sopping wet and he knows she's just as wet inside, so slick and hot and tight, just for him. Any other day he'd roll her onto her front and fuck her from behind until that whiskey-rough voice was gasping his name, but he can't, he can't, and fuck him if that isn't the hottest part of all this.

She spreads her legs as she bucks into his hand, and it nearly undoes him because for the first time he glances down and, god, he can see his hand inside of her panties, his knuckles pushing the fabric outward as he gradually increases the speed of his movements.

He must hit it just right because she moans out loud, breaking the quiet of the room in a big way. Without thinking about it his other hand comes up to clap over her mouth, to silence her; in Jane's typical contrary nature, she takes it as permission to keep moaning because now his hand is there to muffle the sound.

She's getting close, he can tell, because her entire body is tensing against him and her movements are becoming more and more erratic. The noises that his hand is muffling grow increasingly desperate, and when her head and shoulders come off of his chest and her whole body shudders, he knows he's achieved his goal.

He slows down a little but does not stop, coaxing more and more spasms from her body as she comes apart in his arms. He's rock-hard now but knows he won't do anything about it—this isn't about him, and anyway, there's a strange sense of satisfaction suffusing his entire body.

Jane slumps back against him with a sigh.

"Okay?" he asks, just checking in.

She nods even as her eyes are fluttering shut. "Thanks, Frankie."

"Anytime, sis," he says, kissing the top of her head.

*

They should get up, he thinks sleepily. It would be very hard to explain if they fell asleep like this. What's more, it's not good for Jane's still-healing body to spend the night like this. But Jane is so warm, and maybe this is the day Frankie stops kidding himself about how he can fuck his sister without spending the night after.

*

The next morning, gentle shaking wakes him, and it takes a second for him to realize that he's still on Maura's couch, but he's chilly again and Jane's no longer his blanket.

Maura kneels beside him, one hand on his shoulder, looking as picture-perfect and put together as ever. "You're going to be late for work if you don't get up soon."

"Maura?" he asks sleepily, looking around.

She smiles slightly. "I must say, I didn't expect to find you here when I came down this morning."

He sits up and stretches a little, trying to roll out the crick in his neck. "I didn't expect to stay. Jane and I were talking and—I guess I fell asleep. I don't know why she didn't wake me." He shoves his hand in his pocket, hoping it looks natural. God, please don't let her notice it smells like Jane.

"Well, I don't know what you talked about, but I think it helped. She was awake when I checked on her a little while ago, and she seemed very content." I'm glad, Maura says, but her eyes tell a different story.