DISCLAIMER:: not mine, yet again. just borrowing.

A/N:: so this is the final chapter. sigh. it's been a long trip. thanks to all the readers who stuck with me since the beginning and those who have been picked up along the journey. this story would be nothing, just a thought in my busy head, if not for all of you. i left this very open ended for a reason. now that i'm back in SF permanently, no more mountains, i'm thinking sequel? yes, no? let me know what you think. if there's enough interest i might not be so quick to retire my laptop. let me know!

-/-

Jane struggled with the door, juggling the bags and the keys. Suddenly, the door burst open. Maura stood in the doorway with her hands on her hips.

"Where have you been?"

Jane frowned. "Getting the groceries." She tried to move past Maura into the house, but Maura continued to block the doorway.

"You left nearly three hours ago Jane. It does not take three hours to go to the market."

Jane was about to defend herself but the moment before she opened her mouth, she saw the fear behind Maura's accusing glare. Jane set the grocery bags down on the porch and pulled the honey haired woman into a tight embrace.

"I'm sorry," she whispered into Maura's hair.

She felt Maura's tense muscles relax the second she said those words, as if being in her arms made the ME feel safer.

"Janie! Is that you?"

Maura pulled reluctantly from Jane's arms and bent down, retrieving the bags and carrying them back into the house.

Jane followed behind her.

"What took you so long? We don't eat supper at midnight, ya know?" Angela didn't even look up from the fresh mozzarella she was slicing.

"Sorry Ma, I had to make an extra stop."

Maura looked at her questioningly, but Jane just shook her head and mouthed 'later'.

-/-

Dinner was awkward, but Jane could tell it eased them all to be in the presence of family. Jane noticed how Angela kept glancing at the empty chair Frankie had once occupied and she couldn't help the twist of guilt in her gut when she thought how she used to despise having to find time in her busy work schedule to come to dinner every week. Now she found herself wishing that she'd never missed one.

It was with some reluctance that Maura and Jane departed the Rizzoli home after dinner.

"I really love your family." Maura glanced over from the passenger seat.

Jane smiled. "Really?"

Maura nodded and turned back to stare out the window.

Jane frowned. She didn't like the distance she saw in the brief glance.

"I saw Patty Doyle today. That's why it took me so long."

Maura's head whipped around and Jane could easily see the question in her eyes.

"He was calling in his favor."

Maura paled. "Is it… bad?"

Jane chuckled. "No, in fact I would have done it even if I didn't owe him."

Maura finally seemed excited about something for the first time since the Veronica's death. "So, what is it?"

"Erin wants to be Boston PD. She applied to the academy and he asked that I put in a few good words for her. He wants to keep her as far away from the lifestyle as possible."

Maura nodded slowly. "Has he told you who she is yet?"

Jane frowned as they pulled up to a red light. She glanced over at Maura, whose attention was conveniently focused on the light. "What?"

Maura shrugged. "The resemblance between us is remarkable, Jane, don't tell me you haven't noticed."

Jane sighed. "He told me she's not his daughter, but he's taking care of her for an old friend."

"My mother."

Jane nodded. "He didn't say as much but that's the conclusion I came to. It's the eyes."

Maura nodded.

They finished the rest of the ride in silence and when they pulled up in front of Maura's house, Jane was feeling even more distant from the light haired woman.

She saw a look of dread pass across the ME's gaze as she looked up at the house.

"How 'bout we stay at a hotel tonight?"

Maura looked over and nodded, but Jane saw the relief and gratefulness that flooded her gaze.

-/-

Jane traced the scars on her palms, evidence of Hoyt's treachery. She looked down at the scar that marred the normally perfect flesh of Maura's neck, the result of another psychotic individual's sick obsession.

We've both been a victim of the lifestyle I've chosen. Maybe this is a crossroads for me. Maybe we should move out, to some place more safe. I need to get her away from that house. I need to get away from that house. We could move out to Newton. She thought of a vicious murder she'd investigated out there and shook her head. No, not Newton. We could go to Revere, be closer to my parents. Or we could just stay there in Brookline. It was one of the safer suburbs in Boston. But we would need to move out of that house. I just need to make sure I protect her.

She glanced at Maura, still sleeping, soundly for the first time since the incident in Jane's apartment. In that moment, Jane knew everything in her world now revolved around making Maura Isles happy. She was now the center of Jane's entire universe.

I am so in love with you. When did that happen? She smiled to herself. Does it matter when it happened?

"Jane?"

Jane snapped out of her thoughts the second she heard the medical examiner's voice. She looked down into an unwavering gaze that was studying her intently.

"Hmm?"

Maura tilted her head in the cute way she always did when her curiosity was piqued. "What are you doing up this late? You need to sleep just as much as I do."

"Just thinking?"

Maura sat up. "Anything you want to share with the class?"

Jane smiled and in one swift motion, she pulled the honey haired woman into her lap. "Actually yeah."

Maura smiled and it reached her eyes for the first time in what seemed like forever.

"I was just thinking…" Jane's gaze dropped in momentary contemplation of the words she was about to say. She lifted her gaze and Maura saw determination in her eyes. "Will you marry me?"