Author Note: Thank you sooo much to each and every one of you for every little moment of this fic. Your reactions, your responses, the comments, the favourites, the follows. Thank you all, so much. I like to try new things and experiment and not everyone likes that, but I am so grateful that you are all on board with the things I write. I've enjoyed this story so much, I don't know why but it felt quite different, in terms of the story, from anything else I've done before. I've laughed, I've cried, and I'm still laughing now. I hope you've enjoyed this journey and I hope to see you all for the next ones!
The smell of freshly baked bread was the first thing Jane registered as she walked into the house. After a busy morning in court, all she wanted to do was curl up in bed with Maura and put the world to rights. She walked into the kitchen, her hands tucked in her pockets.
"One of these days I'll be here to watch you make food that smells this good," Jane said, wrapping an arm around Maura's stomach and kissing her neck. "Until then I'll have to assume you're telling the truth."
"You think I'm lying?" Maura asked, spinning around in her arms. Jane placed her hands on the counter behind her, imprisoning her.
"Nah." Nibbling on her bottom lip, Jane leaned in close. "But I can't wait to make my own lunch."
"I was about to prepare lunch, but if you'd rather make your own, that's fine."
Smirking, Jane stared at her. "Seriously?"
"I didn't mean food, Maur."
"Oh." Maura pushed her hand from the counter and ran the faucet. "That will have to wait. Luke is trying on his new uniform."
"I think he's the only kid in the world who's excited about a new school uniform," Jane said, picking up one of the freshly baked buns on the counter and breaking it open. She ripped a piece off and tossed it into her mouth, and chewed. "I never got that."
"The excitement over school uniforms?"
"No, how private school kids whose parents have a heap of money get uniforms. But public school kids whose parents are flat broke have to wear five different outfits each week that are considered 'in' to avoid being bullied."
Maura shrugged. "It's a good job I made plenty of those, isn't it? How was the sentencing?"
"Sarah got thirty to life," she said, swallowing another piece of bread. "Kid's still in the foster system, but I heard the mayor's thinking of taking him in."
"It's the least he can do," Maura said, taking a knife and cutting into the buns. "Perhaps if he'd been more open to knowing his daughter, none of this would have happened."
"Are you posthypothesising again?"
"Post hypothesising is not a thing, but yes, I am playing what if."
Shuffling his feet across the floor, Luke entered the kitchen. He kicked his legs forward and back a couple of times and tugged at the jacket of his uniform.
"I thought we got the shorter leg."
"I got the longer ones, with the expectation that you're likely to grow a few more inches," Maura said, taking out a packet of cooked chicken from the fridge. "Slice that."
Picking up a knife and chopping board from the side, Jane proceeded to cut the chicken into smaller pieces. "You look smart, Kid."
"I feel like I'm drowning."
"That usually happens with school uniforms," Maura said, wiping her hands on a towel. She walked over and ran her hands across the lapels of his jacket. "You look very smart. We'll get the trousers altered so that we take them down when you grow."
"Why can't I go to public school?"
"Because you need to be pushed academically, and this school, as you agreed, is your best choice."
"Meh," he said, shuffling across the room and sitting down on the couch. "No way!"
"What's the excitement for?" Jane asked.
Opening up a box on the coffee table, Luke shouted. "Dad sent my stuff!"
"He did?" Jane asked.
"Yes," Maura said. "We got the delivery just before you got home. This also means we need to discuss rules."
"About homework and games. The games console stays in the lounge room at all times, I'm not having you playing CARP until the early hours of the morning when you have school."
Leaning back, his hands on his stomach, Luke gasped. "CARP?"
"It's COD, Maura," Jane said, laughing. She tossed a piece of chicken into her mouth. "God, I'm starving."
"Can I play now?" Luke asked.
"This evening when we get home. Please go change out of your uniform and come back down to help prepare lunch."
Luke put the games back into the box. "Why are we going on a picnic?"
"Angela has very kindly organised a family day out to celebrate your coming to live with us."
"How is she family?" he asked.
"She's Jane's mother."
"I know that," he said, unbuttoning his jacket. "But you're not married to Jane, so how is she family?"
"Angela is a dear friend, and I consider her a surrogate parent. Family isn't always the people you are related to by blood."
"Now please," Maura said. "Go upstairs and change. We need our basket finished and to be in the car in fifteen minutes."
Luke turned tail and fled the room, his feet shuffled along the floor as he rushed upstairs. Jane placed the knife on the chopping board and picked up an onion. She sliced into it.
"No onion," Maura said.
"Why not? I like onion."
"I like onion too, but I want to enjoy the afternoon and not worry about the smell of onion on my breath."
Sighing, Jane pulled open a draw and put the half-cut onion into a plastic bag. She picked up a capsicum. "Can we have some of this?"
Pulling up in the parking lot of the park, Maura turned in her seat. She rested a hand on Luke's knee and smiled.
"I know you're not a big people person, but please try to make an effort. Everyone is here for you, okay?"
He shrugged. "I guess."
"We'll eat, talk, spend time with people who care about us, and then we can go home and you can play your games until bed. How does that sound?"
"First one to the picnic gets the biggest slice of chocolate cake," Jane shouted, tossing her seatbelt off her shoulder and flying out of the car.
Following her, Luke screamed out. "No fair, you didn't give me chance!"
"I suppose I'll carry the basket myself," Maura said, rolling her eyes. But deep down she didn't much care. The look on Luke's face as he ran across the park was enough to make it okay.
She followed behind, the basket on her arm, as she walked across the park towards their family and friends. Jane ran back, still jogging around as she sidled up beside Maura.
"I'll take that," she said, pulling the basket from her hands and slowing to a walk. "I think I'm gonna like having Luke around."
"Me too," Maura said, keeping up the pace beside her. "My lawyer received the gift, he was very grateful."
"Not as grateful as you getting that injunction."
"I know. A weekend away didn't feel anywhere near enough of a thank you gift, but it's the very least I could do after he found a way to push it through."
Wrapping an arm around Maura's shoulder, Jane leaned in and planted a kiss on her cheek. "Greg gone back to China yet?"
"His flight is in a couple of days; he's going to come and see Luke before he goes."
"Is that a good idea?"
"I don't see why not; he's been cooperative as far as everything else is concerned." Maura slipped an arm around Jane's back. "In all honesty, I think he's relieved. He was reaching breaking point with Luke. I don't think he could have taken much more."
"There you are," Angela said, pulling them both into a hug. "Luke's been here for ages!"
"For a minute, Ma," Jane said, placing the basket down on top of a large area of blankets. "You got enough blankets?"
"I wanted to make sure we had enough space," she said, linking her arm with Maura. "Besides, Tommy and TJ came home last night for a few days. Then my friend Marjorie, she's been lonely since her husband died. I couldn't leave her on her own!"
Frowning, Jane stood in front of her. "How many people did you invite?"
"A dozen…and another two dozen."
"Ma!" Jane rolled her eyes. "This is supposed to be about Luke and Maura. Do we even know everyone?"
"Sure," she said. "Marjorie used to work at the Division One Café."
"And the rest?"
"Your Great Aunt Muriel has been in the nursing home for months without you visiting."
"You invited Muriel?" Jane sighed. "She makes you kiss her on the mouth!"
"Don't whine, Janie."
"Who's whining?" Frankie asked, wrapping an arm around Jane's neck. "Hey, Maura."
"Did you know Muriel is coming?"
"She is?" He stared at Angela. "Why would you do that to me?"
"Oh yeah," Jane said, grinning. "I forgot."
"Forgot what?" Maura asked.
"She likes Frankie, he always gets extra kisses."
"On the mouth!" he said, following Angela as she marched off in the opposite direction.
"You sure you want to spend time with my crazy family?" Jane asked, pulling Maura into her arms. They sat down on one of the blankets, arm in arm. "It's only a matter of time before Ma starts asking if we're engaged."
"Who's engaged?" Luke asked, carrying a football and sitting down beside them. He opened up the picnic basket and pulled out a packet of chips.
"Don't ruin your lunch," Maura said, snatching the bag away.
"One chip won't hurt," Jane said, tugging it out of her hand and handing it back to him. "Just don't eat the whole bag, or I'll hunt you down and kick your little teenage butt."
From across the field, Frankie shouted. "Hey Luke, pass us the ball!"
He stood up and tossed it across to him, before sitting back down again. "So, who's engaged?"
"Nobody," Jane said. "I'm so glad she moved out of the guest house."
Luke ripped the bag open and pulled out a couple of chips. "The one at home?"
"Yes," Maura said, reaching into the basket and taking out three glasses and a bottle of juice. "Do you both want a drink?"
"Yes please," Luke said. "Hey, Mom."
Jane took the juice from Maura and poured three glasses, handing one to Maura and the other to Luke.
"I thought maybe I could go and live in the guesthouse," he said, crunching down on a mouthful of chips.
"Why would you want to do that?"
"Then you and Jane can have some along time and you won't have to be quiet."
Choking on a mouthful of juice, Jane lowered her glass to the blanket, her eyes fixed on the cross markings of the material. She coughed a few times, her cheeks reddened. "Swallowed that wrong."
"No, you cannot," Maura said, reaching into the bag of chips and biting one in half.
"But it's the perfect setup," he said. "I'm fifteen, I don't need you to babysit me all the time."
"That's beside the point," Maura said. "You're still a child and you need guidance."
"Hey Maura," Nina shouted, catching their attention. "Frankie's twisted his ankle trying to catch the football, can you help?"
Jane rolled her eyes. "He's such a klutz."
"I'll be right back," Maura said, kissing Jane on the lips and walking across the blankets.
More of the party-goers had arrived, filling up space around them. Luke sat in silence, eating chips and finishing off his juice. From across the field, and Kiki waved in greeting. TJ ran across the blankets, like a whirlwind, closely followed by Tommy.
"It's a shame you're not a guy," Luke said, folding the chip bag over and putting it back into the basket. He stood up and dusted off his pants.
"Why's that?" Jane asked, frowning. She took another mouthful of her drink and leaned back.
"I always wanted a brother or sister, at least if you were a guy it could happen accidentally."
Jane choked on another mouthful of her drink, spluttering and coughing. Luke ran off across the blankets to join Tommy, TJ and a couple of other people playing with the football. Breathing deeply, Jane forced the smile from her face. She pushed herself up by her hands and ran off after him.