Author's Note: With this chapter, Of Arias and High Sticking comes to an end. It is twice as long as the previous chapters because there just wasn't a natural place to split it in two. I would like to thank everyone that has been reading and reviewing. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing it and talking with all of you in PM, on twitter, tumblr etc. As always I appreciate your comments and support. I hope that you all enjoy this chapter as a fitting end to this story.
CH 25: Coda
Two hours had passed when Jane's eyes lazily fluttered open. Carefully lifting herself to prop up on her elbow she watched as Maura continued to sleep soundly. Other than being in the coma, it occurred to Jane she had never actually watched Maura sleep before. It was a peaceful sight, not like in the hospital when even though Maura had awakened Jane worried that something would still go wrong. They were home now, and something about that left her at ease, that, things would be ok. Everything would be ok. She held her fingers in front of Maura's nose and felt her breath reach out and draw back in a steady and quiet rhythm against her skin. Sporadically, Maura's eyes twitched, and her nose crinkled while a faint hum slipped out on an extended exhale.
"What are you dreaming about?" Jane whispered, running her fingers through Maura's still damp hair. She'd been too exhausted to even let Jane blow it dry. Tucking a loose strand behind Maura's ear that had slipped free from the hastily thrown together braid she continued to watch her dream. Her fingers trailed higher and traced along the outside edges of the lacerations' bruising on Maura's forehead. "No more nightmares. No more nightmares."
The gentle touch began to rouse her from sleep. The inviting comfort of her own bed tricked her into forgetting her injuries for a moment. Maura tried to roll over but the pain pill she had been given that morning was on the tail end of doing any good. The piercing streak of fire through her shoulder and the constant ache in her ribs pulled her unceremoniously out of slumber. "Ow," she groaned with a grimace as her eyes opened.
"Easy," Jane smiled; sliding her arm under Maura's back to help her sit up. "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you up."
Maura glanced at the clock and saw that it was past five, "It's ok. I think I'm feeling a little hungry anyways."
"Want me to help you to the dining room?"
Considering it for a moment, Maura bit down on her lip as she thought of Constance standing in the kitchen earlier. "I think I'd rather just eat in bed tonight."
Jane leaned in and placed a soft kiss on her lips, fingers still stroking her face, "Ok."
Tommy saw her first as Jane walked into the living room, "Maura doin' ok?"
"Yeah," Jane patted him on the shoulder and squeezed, "she just woke up."
Glancing over her shoulder from setting the table, Angela regarded her with a warm smile, "I just put the bread in. Dinner will be in about fifteen or twenty minutes."
Constance approached Jane with a hesitancy that was unsettling. If anything, she thought it should be the other way around, with her being afraid to talk to Constance. The older woman made her way slowly to stand in front of Jane. She wrung her hands together and twisted her wedding ring nervously round and round her finger.
A one-sided smile drew up the corner of Jane's mouth. "Maura does that," she pointed at Constance's hand. "Twists her rings around when she's nervous."
"Does she?" Constance grinned for a moment, looking down at her fidgeting hands. I should know that. Her face fell somber.
"Yeah," Jane continued. "Sometimes she'll take the ring off because she thinks that will stop it. But, then she just twists an imaginary ring." They both laughed. "I'm not sure she even realizes she's doing it then."
"I…I…guess I never really realized that I do it," Constance stammered.
"Like mother, like daughter," Jane nodded towards Angela. "She cleans when she's upset and 'organizes' things. I vacuum."
With a smile and chuckle Constance glanced fondly over at Angela, "Well, at least you reap some tangible benefit from that." She held up her hands, "This just makes me look like a nervous nelly."
The juxtaposition of their roles was striking to Jane. Only ten days ago she had practically been on her knees begging Constance to allow her to see Maura. Now, everything had turned around. She knew exactly what was on the woman's mind without her even needing to say the words. Jane wondered if it came from a newfound place of respect and acceptance or if Maura had shamed her mother so badly when she woke up that Constance was now less afraid of Jane than her own daughter. It didn't matter. She'd been on the receiving end of denial…twice. She had walked in those shoes and they hurt dearly.
"Constance," Jane reached out and stilled the woman's still nervously wringing hands. "You don't have to ask for my permission to go back and see her."
If she knocked, Maura would know it was her and might tell her to go away. Constance stood outside the door, clutching a thick photo album to her chest with one arm, her fist hovering. She lowered her hand and turned the knob and walked in unannounced. Maura's face was void of emotion as she approached. That, in and of itself, terrified her. As a child, her daughter may not have been the most intuitive when it came to feelings, but when she was overwhelmed by them they overtook her like a thunderous storm. To see the blank stare Maura leveled her way now, Constance could only take as hatred.
"May I sit?" Constance asked, glancing down at the edge of the bed.
"I'd rather you left."
"You'd rather I left…or you're telling me to leave?" Angela had prepared her for this: avoidance. An emotionally distressed Maura wasn't something Constance had recent experience with. Thirty-something years of facing things alone had taught Maura to push people away, suffer in silence, or cry behind closed doors. At this point, Angela had said looking her square in the eye, only Jane has her complete unwavering confidence. Constance had looked at her skeptically; Angela was the mother Maura had always wanted. No, Angela shook her head with a sympathetic smile, not even me.
Maura's eyes fell to her lap but she said nothing. Constance sat down.
"We need to talk," Constance lowered the album from her chest to let it rest on her knees.
"I'm not sure I'm ready."
"That's fine. Then, I can talk, and you can listen." Constance turned the album around and placed it on Maura's lap as she flipped it open to a cover page entitled Ballet. "Did you know, when I was a little girl, I wanted to be a dancer?"
Maura's eyes stayed fixed on the album, wondering what it held.
Constance continued, "But, I didn't really have the build for it…and terrible knees to boot. From the moment you could walk you would twirl and dance to the music I played in the house. So, I signed you up for ballet. I bet you don't even remember your first class."
Maura shook her head, watching intently as her mother turned the first page of the album. A row of six little girls outfitted in pink leotards, tights, and slippers stood in various interpretations of first position.
"From day one, you had the best form," Constance's finger tapped on the picture above a three-year old Maura's head. "Madame Laroux always said you were a natural and a quick study," she began to turn the pages filled with pictures from dance classes and early recitals. "That was no surprise to your father and I of course. We knew you were brilliant early on."
"I don't remember any of these being taken," Maura finally spoke up.
"Well, darling, you were three in most of these. You were…" she grouped a bunch of the pages together, "…four to six here. You were always so focused in class, it was almost as if no one else was in the studio once you began. I'm not surprised you don't remember me with my little camera snapping away."
Page after page, Maura watched her mother flip through the album. She had saved it all, pictures and programs from classes and recitals from the time Maura was three until she went to boarding school in France. Maura reached out and stopped her mother from turning a page. What had once been roses were now no more than flakes and powder under plastic, but Maura recognized them all the same. "Are these…?"
Constance nodded, "The bouquet your father and I gave you after your first solo."
"You saved them."
Her first solo, and her last recital before she went to school in France; Maura reached for the pages herself and turned, not believing there could be more. But, there was. "I sent you these programs," Maura remarked as she began to recall the almost long forgotten performances. "But…not the rest."
"When you didn't send them," Constance ran her hand over a faded and yellowing copy of the Nutcracker, "I asked Madame Bonaly to mail me one."
The final photo in the album was unmistakable. Maura's mouth fell open as she traced over the image with her finger. If not for the spotlight the black costume would have blended into the darkness behind her. Her eyes were closed at the pinnacle of the leap, legs perfectly split in midair. "This was my senior recital."
"You always performed such a beautiful grand jeté, such control, such flawless extension," Constance tried to cover Maura's hand with her own but her still flighty daughter pulled away.
"How did you…?"
Guilt began to overtake her as Maura's face shifted from fond recollection to sadness, "I hired a photographer to take pictures for me."
"I…wish you would have been there instead. It was the last time I danced." Maura closed the album.
She placed her hand on her daughter's knee, "I had a student that was a finalist for a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant…" Constance stopped herself. "…and…I should have asked another faculty member to oversee. I should have been there for your performance. I love you dearly. I always have, from the first moment you were placed into my arms and every moment after. I should have done a better job of showing it, I didn't know how. Sometimes, I think I still don't know how. But, that doesn't mean it's not true, that it's not what I feel. I should have made sure you knew that you were my priority even when you didn't ask. I should…"
Maura's lip trembled, "None of this is why I'm angry with you right now. I felt lost, for a really long time. I tried so hard in everything because I thought it would make up for not being a good enough daughter, that that's why you didn't pay much attention to me. I let people…men, use me so that I would know what it felt like to be wanted. It took years, but I overcame all of that. In large part because of Jane. I'm not that lost, weird little girl, or young woman anymore. And I have forgiven you for that benign neglect, mother. I have. Because, I love who I am now and what my life is, and who I am now would not be without everything that came before it. But, that is not why I am angry with you now."
"I know…" Constance whispered as she wiped the tears from her cheek. "But, the guilt that I carry is very much a part of why I did what I did at the hospital. That is what I am trying to explain to you. Over these past few years when we have talked it was almost as if you were already a Rizzoli. When I came to visit, Angela is living in your guesthouse; they have family dinner here every Sunday. It was so plain to see, to hear it in your voice that you were in love with Jane. I knew it before you knew it. I was jealous. Plain and simple. I know that I had no right to be jealous for you replacing me considering the kind of mother that I was…but I always loved you and in my head I had these fantasies that one day we would have what Angela and Jane have. When you told me that you and Jane were together, it felt like the final straw, like I had finally completely lost you. You weren't my daughter anymore. Not because I didn't want you, but because you had found the family you always deserved and you had no need to hold on to whatever shred of a relationship we had. That…every bit of it, is all my fault. And then the accident happened and all I could of think of was that this was my chance…this was my chance to be there. I wanted to be there for you; I wanted you to wake up and see…see that there is no one more important in my life than you."
"You could have both been there."
Constance nodded. "It is probably the biggest mistake I've ever made. And I know that no words right now, no apology, is probably enough to take even the smallest amount of that pain away. The very opposite of what I intended, it was, I realize now, the most selfish thing I've ever done. You don't have to even think about forgiving me right now…but, I promise you, Maura, I will devote every ounce of energy I possess to making amends for this."
"I can't," Maura shook her head, pushing the album back into her mother's lap. "I can't forgive you."
Standing just on the other side of the open door, she had been listening the entire time, Jane took a deep breath and stepped into the room, "I can."
Both Isles' turned and looked at her; Constance stood.
"What if I had died, Jane?" Maura closed her eyes and shuddered at the thought, tears flowing erratically down her already saturated face.
"You don't do what ifs…"
"I do now," Maura looked up at her. "What if I had died and it was Ian who had to come tell you? Would you forgive her then?"
That what if had played through Jane's mind so many times before Maura had finally awoken. Hurt, painfully evident in her eyes, Jane looked at Constance. "I don't know. I don't think I would have been able to forgive you for that."
"I understand," Constance nodded.
"But," Jane continued, glancing at Maura and then back to her mother, "that didn't happen. And I forgive you, Constance, for what you did do. I'm able to do that now because of the person loving your daughter has made me."
"Thank you," Constance whispered, stepping forward into Jane's offer of an embrace.
Jane wrapped her arms tightly around the shaking woman and let her lips hover near her ear as she softly whispered, "Give her time."
As Constance exited, Jane took her seat on the bed and opened the photo album. "I thought you said she didn't have any pictures of you."
With a deep sniffle to stifle the tears, Maura's eyes fell again on the pictures as Jane leafed through them, "I didn't know that she did."
"A lot of misunderstanding going on."
"I could have died…" Maura reiterated.
In a flash, Jane was hovering in front of her, hands cupping her face, "But, you didn't die. And you can't punish her forever for the pain I might have felt!"
"That's not…" Maura began to protest.
"That is…" Jane stopped her, "…exactly what you are doing. Everything you just said to her was based on knowing how I would have felt if you had died and I hadn't been allowed to be there with you. And yes, if that had happened I probably would have hated her with every fiber of my being for the rest of my life. But, you didn't die! And I don't want you to feel this way in defense of me. You know your mother better than anyone; how hard was it for her to say everything that she just came in here and said to you?"
Maura's head began to slump but Jane held it up. "I…I don't think I've ever heard her admit she was wrong, or apologize."
"I forgive her, Maura. And if you need to stay angry for a little while, that's fine. You've earned the right to be angry at her. Remember though, nothing has been broken yet that can't be fixed. Because we're going to get married, you say," Jane grinned and affirmed her desire with a long and supportive look into Maura's eyes, "and I want my mother-in-law at the wedding. I want her in the pictures, standing next to you in your empire-waist, silk charmeuse gown with the twenty-foot train. And a LONG time from now, when we have a kid, or kids, or…you know, whatever, I want them to see our family all together on that day."
Maura tried to muffle her cries on Jane's shoulder as they held each other.
"You can be angry today," Jane ran her fingers through Maura's hair, loosing the braid as she kissed her, "I might even give you to the end of the week. But, not forever. Not forever, Maura. Ok?"
"Ok," Maura acquiesced with a faint whisper.
Jane appreciated Constance's approach to giving Maura time. Had it been Angela, well, the extra space would have maybe lasted until the next morning. But, then, anyone was more subtle than Angela Rizzoli. Following the emotional exchange Constance left contact information for her hotel and quietly slipped out. The next day, however, she personally delivered groceries. Everything she knew to be a favorite of Maura's, and having clearly picked Angela's brain, several of Jane's as well. She didn't linger, merely stocked the fridge and cabinets and left. Jane didn't even feign an apology as she devoured the snack cakes. I barely ate while you were in the hospital, she reminded her disapproving lover, I've got a few pounds to add back on.
On the second day, she brought flowers. Having mentioned that perhaps Maura would enjoy having something living to brighten up her home while she was fairly immobile, Jane had jumped at the chance to whisper to Constance with Maura well out of earshot, calla lilies are her favorite. There must have been a different type of lily for every room. Constance put the calla lilies in the bedroom. Maura watched silently as her mother swooped around the house and arranged them. That afternoon, while she was taking a break from the bedroom to sit on the sofa, Jane caught Maura with her head resting on the back of the sofa, as she stared up at a bouquet of bright orange oriental lilies and fingered the lowest hanging leaf.
When she dropped off the expensive bottle of grand cru Bordeaux and the fruit and cheese platter on Friday afternoon, as they were getting ready for the opera, Jane assumed that was the daily peace offering. She thanked her, offered Constance a glass, which she refused and went to show her out. Just striding up the driveway as Jane opened the door was a tall, dapper gentleman carrying what looked like a fancy toolbox in one hand and a hair dryer in the other.
"Jane," Constance smiled, "This is Brian, one of the best stylists in Boston. I booked him to do yours and Maura's hair and makeup for the opera tonight. I thought Maura might need a little assistance, and that you deserved a little treat." With that, she left.
"I'm not going…" Maura muttered as Jane stood in the doorway of the bedroom. She lowered the shoulder of her robe and revealed the botched job she'd made of trying to cover the bruising on her shoulder with foundation and concealer. "I don't have the right makeup to cover marks this dark."
"No, you certainly don't," Jane agreed, "but Brian does, I bet." She stepped aside and allowed the young gentleman into the room. "Brian, you've already met the lovely cut on my forehead from our accident. Please meet Maura's shoulder surgery." Jane arched one eyebrow and stared intently at Maura. "You're going."
They set her up in a chair in the bathroom but the anticipation had been taxing and Jane could tell Maura was on the verge of tears that she was desperately trying to hold back. "Talk to me," Jane encouraged, taking Maura's hand and squeezing it.
"The dress I bought to wear is strapless."
"That's good, right?" Jane smiled. "Don't you think straps would itch over the stitches?"
Maura sighed and kissed Jane's hand, "You said one day I'd walk out of the house in a strapless dress and I wouldn't be embarrassed. Today is not that day."
"It doesn't have to be today," Jane pulled her robe down again and ran her fingers lightly over the top of Maura's shoulder. "I showed your mother your dress. I asked her to pick you out a shawl just in case. It's very pretty; it looks exactly like something you would like. I knew I wouldn't get the right thing. No one will know what's underneath it. I've been looking forward to this since Christmas, and…you need this. As much as you don't think that you do. You need to get out of this house and be around people and listen to beautiful music. I bought something really special to wear tonight and if you won't go, I'm just going to return it and not even let you see it…Armani does take returns right?"
Maura's eyes brightened and she couldn't hold back the smile, "Armani…you didn't," she said with a breathy gasp.
"So, Maura Isles, will you accompany me to the opera tonight?" Jane said with her best put on upper crust accent.
Pursing her lips, Maura knew that she had been beaten, "May I see the shawl?"
Checking her watch and tapping her foot impatiently, Maura waited for Brian to wrap up with Jane. Finally, she heard the click of heels and turned as Jane and Brian stepped into the living room. Her mouth fell open. It was the most striking vision of Jane she thought she had ever seen. The expertly tailored and classic ladies tuxedo made her look seven feet tall and absolutely ravishing. "You…I thought it would be a dress, but this…you…oh, Jane. You look stunning. You look like a model." She approached her stammering, aching to run her hands across the satin.
Jane blushed, shoved her hands into the tight pockets of the skinny-leg trousers, "No, I don't," she said unconvincingly. In all honesty, when she had looked herself in the mirror only a few minutes ago, she had been pretty damned impressed.
"Oh, honey," Brian jumped in, fussing with her slick up-do one last time, "If they put a picture of you in the boutique window, no woman would ever wear a dress again." He kissed them each on the cheek and bid them a goodnight.
Maura reached out twined her hand with Jane's. "I'm sorry I was…being difficult earlier."
"You're allowed. I think we all remember my PTOSD – post-traumatic online shopping disorder, refusing to wear anything but sweatpants, trying to skip my own awards ceremony." Jane laughed and started to lean down to kiss her, but paused. "I want to kiss you, but…he made me put on lipstick."
Maura chuckled and guided their lips together anyway. "You can always reapply. Now," adjusting the shawl secured around her shoulders by a broach, she looked at Jane with an expectant smile, "If you'll help me with my coat, I think we have an opera to attend."
Jane tried to keep from giggling. Hold perfectly still, she told herself. Don't move, or she'll know you're awake. The late Sunday morning sun filled the room and Maura had been humming scores from I Capuleti e i Montecchi for what had to have been at least half an hour. She didn't mind if Maura kept it up for days. Her voice was pitch-perfect, silky, and lulling. It had been a memorable evening. This time, they were holding hands before the first act even began. And, when they left, all eyes seemed to be glued to them.
They're all looking at you, Maura whispered. Because you're the most beautiful woman in the theater.
Second-most, Jane replied, without a moment's hesitation as she leaned down and kissed her in the coat-check line.
The humming ceased and inside, Jane's heart fluttered with a slight sadness at its end.
"You can stop pretending to be asleep now," Maura raised her hand and stroked Jane's face.
"How did you know?"
"Your fingers were tapping along to the song on my hip," Maura laughed.
"I was enjoying listening to you," Jane tilted Maura's head towards her and took her lips in a loving kiss, tongue gently sliding in at Maura's invitation. "What's your favorite part from that opera?"
"The part you played for me when I was in the coma."
"How do you know I did that?" Jane asked as she lazily traced the features of Maura's face with one delicate finger.
"I just know."
The air in the ice arena felt particularly crisp that afternoon, a refreshing contrast to the damp and slushy cold that hung outside. The Black Caps looked sharp, running their drills with perfect precision. Maura's eyes trailed over to the red and blue jerseys on the other half of the ice: the Mayflowers, Beth's team. It seemed strangely fitting, that their season would end in the same duel of colors in which it had began.
Maura adjusted her sling, with no upper body pads on under her jersey, it hung at an odd angle and bunched under the sling's strap. She was still fidgeting with it when Jane came to a grinding halt in front of the bench.
"Come on bruiser," Jane held out her hand, "this is Championship ice out here. It has to be skated on."
Her legs didn't feel as shaky as she thought they might. Everything came back, the feel of the ice under her skates, the motion, the way her body balanced. Soon, she was gliding around half of the arena, Jane's arm looped under her good arm as a precaution. It was two laps before she realized that the team was no longer scattered around half the rink. Looking over her shoulder she saw them skating in formation behind her and Jane. They took two more laps before she slowed, stopped and then turned to her team with a tear in her eye. The Mayflowers were lined up on center ice. Maura looked over at them, shocked to see that it was Beth Warner that started clapping first, the rest of her team falling in, followed by the Black Caps and a smattering of people through the audience as well. A loud woot rang out from somewhere in the stands.
"That was Frankie or Tommy," Jane whispered in her ear with a chuckle.
Marcie came up with the black marker first and signed the white part of Maura's jersey; she handed the pen to Jane next and then every member of the Black Caps and the Mayflowers followed until the white was a camouflage of black signatures and quotes. The clapping died down and slowly everyone dispersed to finish the pre-game prep. Standing at the rink wall in front of the stands, Maura saw her mother. "Jane," Maura patted her hand and eased Jane's grip off of her arm. "I'm ok."
With a smile and a glance in Constance's direction, Jane skated back to the bench.
Constance dabbed at her eyes with a tissue as Maura approached, "They were all clapping for you." Maura nodded modestly. "It's…it's the most wonderful thing I've ever seen."
"More wonderful than the dancing, or the fencing, or the horseback riding?"
Constance nodded, covering her mouth as more tears trickled out but were cooled by the chilly arena air. "You never played a team sport. Not a true team sport. I…I never thought I'd see you like this. You have your own numbered outfit and everything. They all signed it."
"It's called a jersey," Maura laughed.
"Yes," Constance smiled, somewhat embarrassed by her lingo faux pas. "It looks good, you look good in it."
The whistle blow from center ice sliced sharply through the air. "I have to get to the bench."
"Maura," Constance reached out but caught her hand before she tried to take her daughter by the arm. "Would you let me take some pictures of you and Jane after the game? And…next season, will you send me the schedule so I can come to some of them?"
Looking down at the marker in her hand, Maura held it out to her mother, she pointed to a free splotch of white on the front to the right of the team emblem, "I think there's some space here…if you want to sign it."
To my darling, I've never been more proud. All my love, mom.
The four on four, post-regulation overtime period came to a climactic end with the Mayflowers' goalie catching what would have been the Black Caps' winning goal off of Jane's stick.
"Dammit," Jane muttered as she took a look at the still tie score on the board and skated to the bench. The team gave her hearty back slaps and offered that it was a good shot as consolation. It did little to dull the ache and exhaustion that sagged through her body. She took her helmet off and sat on the bench next to Maura while Coach Saarsgard strategized for the shootout.
With the whistle blow, Carolyn donned her goalie mask, tapped the top of it as all of the Caps slapped it as well and skated to her net. The first player took the ice for the Mayflowers and Coach Saarsgard arched an eyebrow as she looked at her clipboard. Her shot went high and was an easy field for Carolyn. "Maura…you'll take the first shot for us."
"No!" Maura exclaimed popping to her feet.
"Thought you wanted to play?"
"Coach, I do, but, I can't hit it hard right now," Instinctively Maura reached for the shoulder that Marcie was already trying to tug the sling off of.
"You don't have to hit it hard," Marcie laughed. "Just try to sneak it in. And really, we don't care if you score. We just want you to play."
The team all started chanting Isles again and before she could launch another protest, Claire had plopped the helmet on her head and Jane was shoving a stick in her hands. "Go on," Jane said.
She skated out on the ice and the ref dropped the puck. With the blow of the whistle she was off, not fast, the pain in her ribs wouldn't allow it. She had her eyes set on the bottom right corner of the net. At the last minute, as she saw the goalie commit to her telegraphed direction Maura gritted her teeth through the pain, slid to a stop, took a shaky spin and gently slapped the puck towards the left corner instead. It dinged just off the post and skittered away. No goal. "Shit!" The Mayflowers' goalie gasped, rolling over, sure the puck was in the net; she flung her mask back, a look of shock plastered across her face that it wasn't.
"That almost went in!" Coach Saarsgard stood mouth agape at the bench as Maura skated back. "Where in the hell did you learn that move?"
"I taught her," Jane smiled proudly.
"Well, if you can damn near pull a goal off all beat to hell…keep practicing, I could definitely use that next year." Coach looked at Marcie and nodded towards the ice. "Only you and Jane have gotten one in on them this game, get us on the board again."
The Mayflowers' second shooter came up empty handed against Carolyn as well. The Caps all held their breath as Marcie bolted for the goal, the bench erupting in raucous screams as her hard shot caught the goalie unawares and slammed into the net. None of them were surprised to see Beth Warner take the ice for the Mayflowers' last shot. She had scored both of their goals in regulation. Carolyn hunkered down and slapped her stick repeatedly against her shoulder.
"If she misses," Jane whispered to Maura, "we win."
"I'm aware of how a shoot out works, Jane," Maura responded with laugh.
Beth tried the same move that had completely flustered Carolyn in the first period but to no avail. The puck landed in Carolyn's gloved hand with a hard smack that echoed through the silent arena until the cheers from the stands prompted the Black Caps to rush their goalie on the ice.
Jane hung back when Maura didn't move. "Don't you want to go out there?"
She shook her head. "I want to watch for a minute." Maura laughed as they all dogpiled on top of one another, helmets being flung in every direction and sliding across the ice. "Help me out of my jersey please."
Jersey off and a sweatshirt on in its place, Maura took the ice, urged Jane to join the team, and skated to the far side where she saw her mother standing at the wall, taking pictures.
"I've never seen anything more exciting! You played! And you almost scored!" Constance's face was alight with an infectious joy.
Maura stepped off the ice and held the jersey out, "I want you to have this."
"No," Constance wrapped her hands around her daughter's and pushed the jersey back towards her. It was the first time they had really touched one another since their talk. "Your team signed that for you. You should keep it."
"But, I want you to have it," Maura said softly, stepping closer, pushing the jersey back to her mother's chest. "It's our new beginning."
Constance pulled Maura into the hug she had been longing for all week, "I'm going to frame it, and hang it in my work studio so that I can see it every day that I'm home." They pulled back and smiled at one another as Constance ran her hand down her daughter's cheek. "I have something for you. You don't have to take it." Reaching into her pocket she covered a small box with her hands. "Angela told me that you…sort of proposed to Jane. I want you to know that I support you and that I will be proud to call Jane my daughter-in-law. Angela went with me, we picked it out together; I thought she would know what Jane would like." Constance opened the box and revealed an engagement ring. "If you don't like it, or if you want to pick it out yourself, it won't hurt my feelings. I just didn't know if you had event thought about a ring yet, but, I thought you might like to make it official."
Maura's hand trembled as she took the ring box from her mother, "It's…beautiful. It's exactly what I would have picked out for her."
At center ice the team assembled as the head of the league and all of the teams' coaches took the ice. Constance pointed, "I think you had better get out there."
Stuffing the ring box in the pocket of her sweatshirt, Maura joined her team for the trophy presentation. She barely heard the words the chairman said. She wanted to take it all in. The smell of sweat and ice, the boisterous flat echo of hands clapping together after every sentence, the crowd of people in the stands, her mother…still standing where she left her, now wearing her jersey and still snapping pictures. Jane nudged her and nodded her head at their team clapping. Coach Saarsgard was honored with coach of the year.
"Next," the chairman said as he brought the crowd, coaches, and players to a hush. "Our league player of the year. Voted on annually by all the players in the league. Not surprisingly, this year it goes to a member of the Black Caps." He held up the plaque. "Maura Isles."
Maura stood dumbfounded. "That's your name, babe," Jane laughed as she gave her a slight elbow.
"It can't be me," Maura looked up at Jane and then at all of her teammates who were smiling and applauding. "I didn't even play that much, I only scored two goals the entire season."
The chairman approached and handed her the plaque as the crowd all rose to their feet.
"It's not about how many minutes you played," Jane said as she wrapped her arms around Maura's waist and watched everyone cheer. "It's not about how many goals you scored. It's about heart. You've always had mine. Now you have theirs too."
Maura turned in Jane's arms and handed the plaque to Marcie at her side. "You said I have your heart…" Jane nodded. "Jane, you have mine…and more. Everything that I am belongs to you and I know that everything that you are belongs to me. There is no forever in my world without you in it. I know, back at the hospital, I sort of just declared that I was going to marry you." She pulled the ring box from her pocket and opened it as her team fell hushed around them. "But, nothing would make me happier than to hear you answer the following question for yourself: Jane Rizzoli, you are the love of my life, the source of my strength, and my inspiration. Will you marry me?"
Jane let the tears fall, "Yes a week ago, yes today, yes tomorrow and every day after. Forever…you and I." She held out her hand and let Maura slip the ring on before pulling her into a kiss as their team circled around them cheering.
As the kiss waned and they reluctantly pulled apart, Jane pointed off the ice. Angela and Constance stood, arms hooked around one another, hands clasped, Frankie and Tommy at their sides.
Maura wrapped her arms around Jane and rested her head against Jane's chest, chuckling as Constance tried futilely to calm Angela's overwhelmed bawling.
"What do you make of that?" Jane asked, laughing and shaking her head at her mother's predictable breakdown.
With her hand caressing Jane's cheek, Maura looked up and smiled, "That's our family, Jane. That's our family."