Epilogue: Seventeen Years Later

"'Bout time," Frost groused as he finally saw Jane coming up the driveway to the crime scene. "You get stuck in traffic or something?"

Pulling on a pair of gloves, Jane glowered at him. She hated being late, but she hated it even more when people rode her about it. Boston had its share of crappy drivers and crappy traffic, and she had happened to catch more than her share trying to get to the scene tonight.

"Yeah, there was an accident when I was about half a mile from here that slowed me down. I tried to take an alternative route, but funny thing about those . . . everyone else starts doing the same thing."

Sensing her sour mood, Frost decided to lighten up. "Hey, no sweat. The uni's have it under control and the new M.E. just got here. Have you met her yet?"

"Uh, no. I forgot about that. Her, huh? Look at the BPD catching up with the times," she said.

Frost chuckled. "Yeah, look at 'em go. A black detective, a female detective, and now a female M.E. Who says those discrimination laws were a waste?" he replied sarcastically. Jane laughed in spite of her foul mood.

"So you met this new M.E. already?" Jane asked curiously.

"Yeah, when she just came up. C'mon, I'll introduce you," he said, flashing his badge and ducking under the crime scene tape.

The victim's living room was ablaze with lights and cops. Jane and Frost saw the dead body lying on the ground in front of the couch and the new medical examiner, crouched over the body taking samples, her back to them.

Barry cleared his throat to get the doctor's attention. She stood up and turned around.

"Detective Jane Rizzoli, please allow me to introduce you to the BPD's newest member, Dr. Maura Isles, the chief medical examiner."

Jane stood there stunned as she came face to face with a past she had left seventeen years ago.

Unfazed, Dr. Isles held out her hand. "Detective," she said in reply. Saying anything else - like "It's a pleasure to meet you" - would have been a lie. Jane continued to gawk at her, frozen.

"Jane," Barry whispered, "Shake the good doctor's hand." He nudged her to try and shake her out of her stupor.

"Huh? Oh, uh, yeah," she said, grabbing Maura's hand a little bit harder than she meant to. The M.E. winced slightly from the rough treatment. "Um, congratulations on your new position."

"Thank you," she replied simply. "I'm sure you would both like to check out the body and the scene before I do much more. Please let me know when you're done so I can let them take the body back to the morgue."

"Will do, Doc. Thanks," Frost replied, glancing at the body and visibly swallowing to try to keep his dinner down. After Maura had retreated out of earshot, he gave Jane an incredulous look. "What the hell was that?"

"Huh? Uh, nothing. Look, don't sweat it. Let's just take in the scene and see what we can come up with." Continuing to give her a skeptical look, but knowing he was the junior partner, he decided not to push it. Jane would talk when, or if, she ever wanted to. But he couldn't deny that his curiosity was piqued.

Jane tried to push the thoughts of Maura out of her head so that she could concentrate on the job at hand, but she couldn't believe how she had been positively blindsided by this turn. How in the hell did she land back in my life? And why does she not seem to be surprised by this at all? And why in the hell does she actually look a whole lot sexier now then the last time I saw her nearly two decades ago? Question on top of question raced through Jane's mind, none of which had any answers. What am I supposed to do?

Maura stood not far off, letting them go over the scene and the body without her interference. She watched Jane closely, noting her body language, her tense shoulders, her locked jaw. She worried whether she had made the right decision in not reaching out to her before now, but she just wasn't able to bring herself to do it. She knew it had been a cowardly move, procrastinating their meeting until it was inevitable, but it was too late to change any of her actions. She could only move forward now, and hope Jane could deal with her back in her life. I hope she can, she thought wistfully.

After going over the scene, Jane approached Maura. "Hey Maura…er, Dr. Isles, we're done here. Feel free to tag and bag if you're wrapped up."

"Thank you Detective," she replied cordially and made her way back to the body. "I'll be conducting the autopsy tomorrow morning. Of course you are welcome to attend."

"Thanks. I'll be there."

Jane ran a hand through her hair as she headed back to her car. Man this was weird!

That night, alone in her bed, Jane replayed her relationship with the now-medical examiner that she knew 17 years ago. She remembered summer camp, when Maura stayed with her family for a few days before going back to France, when they went to New York City, but most of all she remembered that week in Paris.

Oh God – Paris! It was such an incredible week. After they had finally (finally!) had sex in New York, Paris was like a dam breaking. She couldn't say that they had non-stop sex. It was more like having sex all the time but with breaks to eat, see the sights, and sometimes sleep (sometimes). Every night they made love, and usually one or the other of them woke up at 3 am or 4 am and started in on the one who was still sleeping. If they managed to actually sleep through the night, there was always morning sex. Always.

They learned the secrets of each other's bodies, exploring them, memorizing them, worshipping them. Jane learned what drove Maura nuts and what seemed to detract from her arousal. Maura's attention to Jane's physique was almost academic it was so thorough and detailed, though Jane never doubted the love behind it.

Well, we were 17! We had energy to burn, sleep was mostly optional, and there finally weren't any parents, kids, or responsibilities to keep us apart, she mused, a bit amazed at how they couldn't keep their hands off each other. It seemed like a mystery how time would fly by when they were with each other. Hours seemed to vanish from the clock.

They did manage to get out of the apartment every day, except for the first day when they realized that they could easily never leave the apartment and still be completely entertained by each other. Maura was so excited to show off the city that she made sure they showered, dressed, and left by at least noon to show her around. They did all of the perfectly touristy stuff; went to the Eiffel Tower, had hot chocolate at Angelica's, went to the Louvre for a long day of art observation and exploration. They went to the Arc de Triomphe, the catacombs, and Notre Dame. The city was gorgeous! They also just walked around the streets, taking in the architecture and the charm that was completely and only Parisian. They would duck into small cafes to order coffee (far better and smaller coffee than the U.S. ever hoped to have) or split a Croque Monsieur sandwich.

At the end of the week, Maura took Jane back to Charles de Gaulle airport. Jane tried to hold back her tears but Maura was a hopeless cause.

"Hey, hey, calm down," Jane tried desperately to soothe her. "I'm not going off to war, just back to Boston. We'll email and Skype. Okay? Shhhh, Sweetie, shhh."

"It won't be the same!" Maura stubbornly pointed out. "Oh Jane! I wish you could stay, or I could go with you." By this point, Jane was holding her tightly, muffling some of her rebuttals, but she could still hear them.

"I know. Me too. But we had these lives before we met. Don't worry, its not forever. It's our senior year. Next summer we can go back and work in the camp. Maybe we can go to college together. C'mon Maura, it'll be okay. You know it will," she again tried to comfort her, plunging through her own anguish. She worried about the toll a long distance relationship would take on them, but this wasn't the time to bring it up.

In fact, they had talked about the possibilities of how to continue their relationship during the week, usually when they were both naked and somewhat exhausted, but enjoying the afterglow from their recent activity. They had discussed if they wanted to try and make it work (they did), what was plausible, and what they could do to keep in touch with different time zones, different school schedules, and using the tech of the day. They'd finally developed a plan and both felt really good about it, but that was when they still had days left on their own to be together. Tearful good-byes at the airport turned out to be a stark reminder that this was the beginning of putting their plan into action.

God, that day at the airport was hell! Then Jane remembered the rest of the relationship and how it had spiraled away from her. The week in Paris, and even the time at the camp, were far rosier memories than the next few months.

They had been skyping and emailing since they both went back to school in September. It was hard because they were both extremely busy, Jane with sports, Maura with taking on a heavy workload to be as competitive as possible for college, but they wrote each other very long emails, detailing their days or the struggles that they were having. Each girl looked forward to getting responses from the other.

But distance and time apart can make one doubt ones self, even with the most rock-solid of relationships. With only words on a page, some phone calls, or an occasional broken-up skype session, Jane was mostly left with her own thoughts and speculations about their futures.

Maura was applying to Boston-Cambridge University, which was an incredible Ivy League school right in the heart of Jane's city, but Jane couldn't help the niggling feeling that Maura was limiting her options because of her. Jane asked her about it directly during one of their phone calls, but Maura denied that was the case. Jane knew that Maura could literally go anywhere in the world that she wanted – Oxford, Cambridge University (in England, not Massachusetts), Yale – but she doubted that Maura was thinking of applying to those places. Even when she tried to bring it up, Maura insisted that BCU was the only place she really wanted to go.

I'm limiting her, Jane recalled thinking at the time. She is the only person I know who has everything going for her and actually has someone holding her back. I won't be that person. So in December, right after Christmas, Jane called Maura and broke up with her.

Maura was distraught. She didn't understand at all why Jane would break up with her. She loved her, and she thought Jane had loved her back. They complemented each other. They understood each other, and many, many times, they challenged each other. Why end it all?

Jane cut all contact with Maura. It was just too hard to hear from her and think about her, and if her plan was to work, and if Maura was to live up to the full potential Jane was confident Maura had in her, she didn't want Maura to think that they'd get back together if they were in the same city. Cold turkey was the only way, even though it broke both of their hearts.

Jane stared up at the ceiling, watching the patterns of light scuttle across as cars passed by stories below her apartment. And now she's back in my life. She wasn't sure how she felt about that. Excitement, nervousness, fear, and damn it, there was attraction too. If anything, the teenager she knew had only become more adept at how to accentuate her beauty. Now that should be a crime, getting more beautiful as you get older, she thought, remembering how the light caught her long-ago girlfriend's hair just that evening and how her eyes seemed bigger and more expressive then ever before.

It was an odd paradox, having had seventeen years go by. In one case, the memories and emotions were almost as strong as they were nearly two decades ago. On the other hand, so much had happened in Jane's life since then. She rubbed her hands as the reality of this thought set in. I'm such damaged goods anyway. It is one thing to try and form a new relationship with someone. They can take me or leave me. But it is another thing entirely for someone who knew me then, and then could know me now.

The truth of the matter was that they would be working together, and they were practically the only females working in heavily male-dominated fields. It would be nice to have a female friend that I worked with, she thought wistfully. And I do know her; I can't pretend I don't. That's just stupid. After further agonizing, Jane decided she'd at least try to mend the bridge she had single-handedly destroyed years ago.

The next day Jane attended the autopsy that Maura had picked up last night. Her partner tried to stomach through it with her, but in the end, she told him that she had this part covered and he could start tracking down some leads that they'd discussed earlier that morning.

Even in black scrubs and oversized goggles, Jane was struck that Maura was still able to pull of gorgeous as if it were an afterthought. Fucking not fair! Well, maybe she's married and then all of this will be easier.

Dr. Isles was a complete professional through the entire autopsy. Compartmentalization was something she had picked up during her training, along with a professional poker face, which, of course, she saw no need to continue using in her personal life. Work was easy. It always had been. Even standing across from her first love she was able to wield a chainsaw without a hitch and without dwelling on who was watching her.

After she completed the autopsy, she looked up at her observer, removing her gloves and tossing them in a nearby waste bin. "I should have the lab results in a few days. I'll be sure to run them up to you and Detective Frost as soon as they are in. If you have any questions in the meantime, I'll be in my office working on the write-up for him," she said, gesturing toward the body.

Jane nodded, staring down at the DB in front of her. "Could I talk to you for a sec?" Maura nodded, only slightly surprised. She knew that this was coming.

"Of course. Let's go to my office." Jane followed as Maura led the way. Maura could feel her nerves beginning to unwind. Work was easy. Social situations were hard, and revisiting your past from so long ago…well, that was uncharted territory for her. She took a seat behind her desk, hoping the formality of the room might give her confidence or at least something she could tether to.

"What can I do for you?" she asked politely as Jane took a seat across from her in one of the guest chairs.

"Maura," Jane simply looked at her, trying to take her all in. After a heavy pause, Jane smiled slightly. "I'm surprised to see you." Maura released a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding in and returned the smile, but didn't know what to say back. The detective quickly surmised something. "You don't seem surprised to see me though. Why is that?"

Caught. That was the only word that popped in the M.E.'s brain and she began looking at anything but Jane's searching eyes. She couldn't lie, and she knew that Jane knew that. I suppose the truth is the easiest way. "I knew you worked here."

Jane raised her eyebrows in surprise. Maura continued, hoping to downplay exactly how much she knew. "When I was interviewing for the position, there were articles and pictures on the wall of heroic acts that different law enforcement officials had been involved in. You were in one of the pictures. In fact, during the interview, you even came up as one of the most promising detectives that I'd be working with."

This took Jane by surprise, but she could see how this would make sense. "And you still wanted to work here?" she half-joked. She wasn't sure that she'd sign on the dotted line knowing that she'd be working with Maura if the roles were reversed.

"It was a great opportunity," she commented, deciding not to go into the extent of how she had been following Jane's career from afar for years, and how she had sought out opportunities to work closer with her. When the chief medical examiner job became available, she leapt at the chance.

"Have dinner with me," Jane stated, surprising even herself at the directness of the request. Meeting Maura's stunned look, she corrected. "Please? Would you please have dinner with me? I want to hear about what you've been up to the last…seventeen years."

Maura grinned, feeling long-forgotten butterflies stir in her stomach. "I would love to…Detective," she replied, still not entirely sure how familiar they should address each other now. Jane rolled her eyes.

"It's Jane, you know that," but then she second-guessed herself. "Unless you want me to call you Dr. Isles?" Maura shook her head no.

"Maura's fine," she quietly answered, her tone causing old emotions to race through Jane's body.

Clearing her throat, Jane thought she'd probably been gone from Frost for long enough. "Uh, great. So, when works for you?" After some quick calendar checking, they agreed on tomorrow night. "Okay, we can head out right after work. I know a nearby place that makes excellent food." Maura updated her electronic planner and looked up to find that Jane had vanished. I hope this wasn't a huge mistake, she thought to herself, but couldn't ignore the mixture of excitement and trepidation that she was experiencing.

At about 6 o'clock the next day, Jane walked downstairs to find her dinner companion. She had stressed all morning about what to wear. Even the few times that she'd seen Maura since meeting her, she could tell that she'd become more fashion-forward then the teen she'd known years ago. She always looked ready to walk the runway, and she hoped that the ensemble she'd put together wouldn't embarrass the M.E. Well, if we're going to try to broker a new friendship, she should know that she shouldn't build it on clothes…at least not when it comes to me. Despite her stubborn streak, Jane had picked out what she considered her best button-down blouse and favorite dark suit. Still looked good for work and wouldn't stand out, but was a little nicer than she usually wore to chase down crooks.

"Maura, are you ready to go?" she asked as she descended the stair, announcing herself before entering the lab. There was no answer and no one around. Figures. A Friday night at 6 pm. People were probably gone an hour ago. She headed back to Maura's office, where she found her fingers flying over her keyboard. The detective rapped on the door, causing the genius to look up from her work.

"'Bout ready?"

A slow smile broke out across the M.E.'s face, and Jane was relieved to see it. "Mm-hmm," she replied, looking down at her monitor again. "Just finishing this up. Can you give me five minutes?" Jane said she would and decided to poke around the lab outside to give her a chance to finish up and shut down her computer.

"Okay, I'm set," Maura spoke, causing Jane to turn around from her examination of the contents of a glass cabinet. She had donned a shiny trench coat that covered an exquisite purple knee-length dress. Jane swallowed hard as she took in her co-worker's appearance.

"You look…," Shit! Is it sexual harassment if I compliment her? Um, um, um…I think it's okay if I'm not sleazy. "..pretty," she managed to spit out.

Maura smiled at the compliment. "Thank you."

Deciding to find a safer topic, Jane turned to the task at hand. "So the restaurant isn't far. Are you okay to walk?" she asked, noting the high heels that Maura was wearing. Maura assured her that she'd be fine.

The restaurant was a little Italian place that had been family owned since World War II. It was intimate but didn't necessarily give off the vibe of being romantic. Jane had discovered it when she was walking around one day near the station to try and burn off some anger from a recent case. It was one of the few places in Boston that she felt could rival her mother's cooking. Not necessarily beat it, but definitely give her Ma a run for her money.

After they'd placed their orders, Jane started the conversation up. She was actually dying to know if she'd made the right call years ago when she'd cut ties with Maura. "So, what have you been up to these last nearly two decades?"

Maura thought for a moment before plunging into the full answer. She had gone to undergrad at Oxford, received her medical degree at Boston-Cambridge University, and completed her residency in San Francisco. After serving well-off patients at the SF hospital, she decided to sign up with Doctors Without Borders for the next two years, where she was able to serve people who really needed it and didn't have access to medicine the way most developed countries did, and they sent her to Africa. Afterward, she returned to the Bay area because she had grown to love it during her residency, and she had strong ties there, which is how she received her first medical examiner position. After working there for a few years, she decided she'd like to go back to the East Coast, and she received the position of Assistant Medical Examiner in Manhattan's Police Department, one of the busiest and most challenging offices in the U.S. After a few years, and still wanting her career to progress, she was contacted about the Chief Medical Examiner position at BPD.

"I like Boston a lot from my time at BCU, so I was happy to return here. Honestly, the vastness of New York, though an incredible city, was starting to wear on me. So here I am," she finished.

Jane had listened enthralled as Maura flew through the highlights of her adult life. She also felt relief. She would have never been able to do those things if we had remained together. She would have been stuck in Boston long before she was ready, and she would have missed out on so much.

"Wow, you've really done a lot!" she sputtered. "I'm happy for you. I can't believe all the places you've lived and experiences you've had. That's wonderful." Jane was truly happy for her long-ago friend.

Maura returned Jane's smile, though with a little less energy. Yes, her resume reflected a worldly, diverse person, but she couldn't help but feel that all her accomplishments felt somewhat empty. She had done all of those things on her own. Though she had made some good friends, and had taken a few talented lovers, she hadn't met anyone that she could settle down with and start a life with. So she had traveled and sought out new experiences and new places to live. It was exciting, almost like a social experiment, to live among the natives – whether that be in England, Africa, or San Francisco.

"But enough about me. I've gone on for far too long. What about you? How have you spent the last decade plus?" the M.E. inquired politely.

Jane sighed. She didn't have nearly as much to tell, and in other ways, she had gone through so much. How much did she want to divulge to this nearly-new person in her life? "Well, I ended up going to college here, got my undergrad in Criminal Justice and then enrolled in the police academy for BPD. I was a beat cop for years before I was promoted a couple years ago to Detective. And that's pretty much it. Not much of a story, but I love my job. Every day is different, and I like helping people." She decided to leave out the whole Hoyt-stalker-nearly-getting-killed thing. That could keep for another time.

Maura nodded, understanding loving one's job. Though she regretted that she hadn't found "the one" yet, she was immensely happy with the field that she was in and how she was able to help catch criminals and save potential future victims through her work.

Jane noticed that Maura wasn't wearing a wedding ring. She had noticed that before, but she was wearing gloves and performing an autopsy at the time, which frequently meant that people took off clunky jewelry that could catch on tools or innards, which could make for a real mess. She wanted to ask, even though she knew it was rude, but her curiosity was quickly getting the better of her.

"So…you came back to Boston for the job opportunity. There wasn't a . . . significant other involved in this decision?"

Maura gave her a confused look. "Who?"

"Um, a boyfriend, or fiancé or something like that. Someone else that you had to discuss the possibility of moving with. Or maybe that person is already here and you wanted to move to be near him." She felt dopey asking this question, but it seemed odd to her that Maura would want to come back to Boston unless someone was encouraging her to move here.

The scientist wasn't entirely sure how to answer the question. She didn't have a boyfriend or girlfriend, and certainly not a fiancé, but she did want to move back to Boston to see….just to see…if something could possibly happen with her long-ago flame. She knew it was a long shot. It was possible that Jane was happily married with three kids and couldn't care less to see Maura, but she wanted to know. It was a huge leap of faith she had taken by moving to Boston, but she did love the city and she knew the job was a solid one to take for her career. Even if Jane was happily settled in her life, she had wanted to rekindle her friendship with her. Their relationship, though brief, was one of the most fulfilling ones she had ever had, and even being friends with Jane would be worth it. During their friendship and romantic relationship, she had always been kind and loyal, though stubborn to no end. She couldn't imagine that those qualities in the tall brunette would have changed, so she was relatively certain that if they worked together, they'd become friends again.

Jane was still waiting patiently for an answer. Simplest is probably best, Maura thought. Picking up her glass of water to keep her hands from fidgeting, she answered, "No significant other asked me to come here. I'm unattached, as they say." She watched as surprise registered across Jane's face.

And surprised the detective was. Anyone with Maura's looks and pedigree should have been taken off the market long ago, in her opinion. But then she had chosen a somewhat unique career field and, though rummaging through her memories of Maura, she remembered vaguely that even at 17 she was a little socially awkward and could spin off into facts and statistics at the drop of a hat. Many people found that a bit off-putting. If those were early indicators, and those facets of her personality grew stronger, maybe that's why she's still single.

Maura had the same question for Jane. Was she really married with three kids? She knew it was impolite to ask, but since she had already been asked, she decided to skip Emily Post for this one question. "What about you Jane? Have a husband at home waiting up for you?"

The detective nearly spit out the water she was drinking at the absurdity of the idea. Recovering after a moment, she answered. "Uh, no…no husband, no anyone but my dog Jo Friday, which is probably the best companion I could ask for with my job. I've found that most people can't handle the type of work I do – the erratic hours, the danger of it…so for the most part, I just stick to my job. Even my mother can barely stand what I do, and since she's convinced that I dragged my little brother into it…"

"Which one?" Maura asked, remembering the basketball game they'd played with Jane in her driveway.

"Frankie. So I get some guilt trips from my Ma pretty frequently." Seeing the look of pity on Maura's face at having to get guilt trips for what you do, Jane interjected again. "But I know she's proud of me. I do good work, and I love catching the bad guys, so even though it's hard, it's worth it."

The conversation had gone on for hours when Jane glanced around, seeing that the host and their waiter were patiently waiting for them to take their exit. "Well, I think we shut the place down. I can walk you back to the station, or we can go for coffee or something."

Maura followed Jane's visual survey and agreed that they should make their exit, but she didn't want the evening to end. There was still so much more that she wanted to know about Jane, but she decided that she probably shouldn't expect all of her questions to be answered in one night.

"It's late, so I should probably be getting back home."

Jane didn't want the evening to end either, but was hard pressed on how to extend it. "Okay, I'll walk you back to the precinct to your car."

Along the way, a nervous silence settled over them, both of them deep into their own thoughts. Maura wondered why Jane had broken up with her all those years ago. Of course she had given her an explanation at the time – 'I can't do the long distance thing any more' – but Maura had always suspected that there was more to it. Jane was struggling with why Maura hadn't reached out to her when she was in Boston before, when she was attending BCU for med school.

They finally reached Maura's little Prius. "Hey, what are you doing this weekend?" Jane asked.

"Not much. Unpacking and settling in still. I have a few errands to run. Why?"

"Do you need any help? Or would you like to get together when you need a break? I could bring over take out or we could go out or go to a movie. I know moving in isn't the most fun way to spend your weekend." She could feel the nerves bubbling up in her blood. Geez, you think asking someone out gets easier as you get older. Ugh, stupid nerves!

"I'd like that. I'm sure you don't want to spend your weekend unpacking, so I'll save you that tedious chore, but if you'd like to come over, we could order in." Then we can keep catching up, she thought.

Jane gave her a lopsided smile. "Perfect. When and where?" Maura gave her the address in Brookline and Jane said she'd come over tomorrow night to help.

At a little before 6:30, Jane was on Maura's front door step, ringing her doorbell. This still seems weird, she thought. A young lifetime had passed since they'd seen each other. Who were they now? Were they so different, or were they just more of who they were beginning to become when they met seventeen years ago? I wonder when it will stop being weird.

Maura answered the door a moment later, dressed casually, but of course beautifully, in relaxed fitting yoga pants and a loose knit dusty pink top that brought out the rosiness in her skin tone.

"Hi," Jane opened.

"Hi," Maura replied. "Please come in," she invited, stepping aside. It actually went against her nature to have guests over when her house was still in such chaos, but when the two sides of her brain were arguing with each other last night, the wish to see her long-ago friend over-rode her wish to have a pristine house to invite guests into. How is it that in less than a week I'm already making concessions for her that I wouldn't make for anyone else?

"Are you hungry, or would you like to get some work done first?" the detective asked.

"I'm open to either option. Are you hungry? If so, we could order now and then we'd have a little while before the food comes. I could use some help moving a few pieces of furniture." Jane wasn't particularly hungry since she'd had a late lunch, so she suggested that they try to work on some of the furniture arrangements and call in an order later.

After about an hour and a half of arranging and rearranging dressers, chests, beds, side tables, and the couch in the different rooms Maura had, they both admitted to needing to recharge their batteries.

"Time to call in some nourishment," Jane announced. They perused through the menus Jane had brought over, ultimately deciding to calorie-splurge on pizza, justified by their evening workout of hauling heavy objects around.

They chose a local pizza place that the native Bostonian raved about and then sat down to enjoy rehydrating and talking about what else Maura wanted to do that night. Through the food-miracle of pizza, the doorbell rang less than 30 minutes later, treating them to steaming pizza pies and a couple of beers Jane had brought for her good measure.

As they both began to dig into their slices, Jane's left-over curiosity from the night before began to niggle at her more until she couldn't ignore it.

"Hey, Maur, can I ask you something?"

Chewing her pizza while evaluating the state of her living room, Maura refocused her energy back on Jane. "Of course."

"You,…uh, don't have to answer this if you don't want, but….," she trailed off, her nerves wavering, before she could continue. "Why didn't you look me up when you came back to Boston for med school?"

She really didn't blame Maura for not finding her, especially after she couldn't seem to pull herself together enough to keep in contact with her, even as a friend. But if she had moved to Paris, Jane felt reasonable certain that she would have at least tried to find her summertime friend, just to say hello. If Maura hadn't wanted to see her, then she'd have steered clear of her, but Jane felt certain that she would need to run down that path and have it ruled out, rather than simply staying away.

Maura was surprised by the question, but it was easy enough to answer honestly. "I didn't think you wanted to see me."

Jane nodded, almost knowing that that would be the answer. What did you expect when you didn't return her phone calls and emails after you broke up with her? She glumly started picking at the label of her beer.

But Maura wasn't quite through with the question.

"Jane, I was….really hurt when you ended things. Even four years later, coming back to Boston, it didn't seem like enough time had gone by. I…didn't think I could handle seeing you again, or having you not want to see me."

The detective felt her heart lurch in her chest. She had done this. She had shut her out, so it was only fair that Maura wouldn't want to invite her for a tour of the campus when she blew back into town. She sighed. It was probably for the best. What if they'd rekindled what they had, and then Jane broke it off again so that Maura could freely chase her dreams? Or possibly worse – what if Jane simply wouldn't let her go, and then Maura felt compelled to stay in a town that would limit her?

"And now?" she asked, as she observed the hazel-eyed doctor closely over her slice of cheese pizza.

"Now…I thought enough time had gone by that you wouldn't mind seeing me and I wouldn't mind seeing you." Though as the M.E. began to feel perspiration break out across the palms of her hands, she wondered if any amount of time would be enough to keep her from being attracted to the dark, confident woman. Shouldn't fifteen-plus years have been enough? she silently fumed at the fates.

Jane gave her an infamous smirk. "Well, I'm glad that you can see me since we have to work together on a nearly daily basis."

"I'm glad you don't mind seeing me," Maura replied, still a little hesitant as to if enough time had gone by for Jane to feel comfortable with seeing her on a regular basis. Jane grumbled something under her breath. "Ah, I'm sorry, I didn't catch that."

Jane blushed, realizing that her mumble was out loud. Caught and not as fast on her feet as she wished, she opted to simply repeat her sentence. "I never minded seeing you. It was the not-seeing-you part that bothered me."

"So, is it my turn in the evening to ask burning questions?" Jane nodded mutely. "Is that really the reason why you broke up with me, all those years ago – because of the distance?"

It would be so easy to say yes, Jane thought. But it had been seventeen years ago, and what was the point in lying now?

"That was part of it," Jane replied, hating that she'd have to fess up to the full truth. She pep-talked herself that it was so long ago. Surely the truth couldn't hurt now, right?

"What was the other part?" the scientist asked quietly, desperately wanting to know.

Jane couldn't stand to be only a few feet from Maura, sitting across the table from her, nervous energy suddenly flooding through her. She got up to look out the sliding glass doors, bringing her beer along for something to do with her hands.

She was silent for several minutes, before replying. "I didn't want to limit you," her voice cracking on the last word, betraying her calm exterior.

"Limit me? What are you talking about?"

Jane blew out a noisy breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding in. "When we were seniors, and we were talking about colleges and where we were applying to, you kept talking about only Boston schools." Maura nodded, remembering their many conversations on how they could finally be not only on the same continent again, but in the same city. She had been so excited about the idea of being near her girlfriend and best friend again.

Jane could see that Maura still wasn't understanding where she was coming from. "Boston's got excellent schools, but so do a lot of other places. I…I didn't want you to settle for something that was less than what you could get someplace else because of me. I didn't want you to settle for Boston…because of me."

The admission broke Maura's heart. She had suspected that Jane's unexpected break-up might have been because of this, but hearing it aloud, directly from the source, with no more room for denial, caused tears to spring to her eyes.

"But it wasn't your call to make!"

Shocked by the outburst, Jane took a step back as if the words and physically pushed her. "I….know, but Maura, at eighteen, you could do anything, go anywhere. You had the means, the brains, the ambition. I…didn't want to be your regret."

Maura felt the hot tears streaming down her cheeks. Why do my emotions always override my brain! she thought, frustrated by her bodily betrayal. Damn tears!

"But I could have gone to BCU! It's a fantastic school, one of the best in the country."

"But is it the best in the world? No! Where did you go for undergrad? Oxford, one of the best in the world! Maura, that's what I wanted for you. To go where ever you wanted, anywhere you wanted, and experience everything your heart desired. Not be stuck here, with me."

"You could have come with me! We could have gone together!"

A sadness swept over Jane. She hadn't meant for all of this to come out tonight. Or ever, she here they were, and it was too late to turn back. "No, Sweetie, I couldn't have. All I've ever wanted was to be a cop, a BPD cop to be exact. My family is here. My life is here. I've never really wanted to settle in other places and, though they drive me crazy, I wouldn't be able to stand being apart from Ma, Pop, Frankie, and Tommy. But your life was different. You weren't tied to a place in the same way, so I wanted to give you the freedom that I didn't think you'd take on your own." Jane could feel herself running out of steam. She leaned against the side of the sofa. "So I gave it to you."

"That wasn't fair," Maura replied, scowling at her.

Jane shrugged, unfazed, glancing at the scars on her hands, her voice suddenly far away. "Life isn't fair." Returning back to the present and abandoning the dark memories, she cleared her throat. "We were also just so young, Maur. We were eighteen! I…" Jane, you shouldn't admit this part, her conscious counseled her. It will get awkward fast! She backed off. "We were just both so young, ya know?"

On that Maura could agree. "Yes, we were." Trying to pull herself back together, Maura tried to see it from Jane's perspective. "I can see why you did what you did." Jane perked up, pleased that the M.E. could see her side of things. "But I missed you. It was hard not having you in my life anymore when we had grown so close."

"I missed you too," Jane replied, remembering how hard it was not to pick up the phone or reply to an email. She remembered reading and rereading the emails Maura had sent, until the final one. 'Jane, this is the last time I will write to you…'

"But listen, that was a lifetime ago. We're here now. I'd like to be your friend again, if you'll let me," Jane proposed. Reading Maura's hesitation, she plowed on. "C'mon. We're like, the only two females at the station, and I could certainly use a break from some of the testosterone I work with." She paused before saying the next part, because it wasn't exactly true, but she didn't want to scare the scientist off. "I'm not looking for us to be anything more than friends. That…really was a lifetime ago, and I don't expect you to be that same person, but I'd really like to know the person you are now. If you'll let me."

Maura blinked, unsure what to say. So Jane wasn't attracted to women anymore? Huh, that seems odd, Maura thought, remembering their many, many times together. But it was a long time ago. I suppose that's a stage in some people's lives. Not mine, but some people's.

Finally, she smiled. "I'd like that." Relieved, Jane returned to the table, grabbing another slice of pizza.

"Good," she replied through a mouth full of cheese. "Because who else would you get to haul around your dresser to three different walls, huh?" she teased.

After they finished with dinner, Maura pointed out some boxes of books and put Jane to work shelving them. The evening wore on pleasantly until it was late, and Jane said that she needed to go home and check on her pup.

At the door, Maura paused, letting Jane out into the night air.

"I'm really glad you took the Chief M.E. job, Maur. It's really good to see you again."

Maura smiled. "I'm glad I took it, too."

Before she could chicken out, Jane took a quick step forward and hugged Maura to her. She was a hugger, and after everything they had talked about tonight, a wave good-bye seemed like too little. The hug caught the M.E. off guard, but she quickly recovered, wrapping her arms around Jane's back.

This platonic friendship thing may be harder than I thought, Jane mused silently, catching a whiff of Maura's hair.

The typically articulate scientist (even in her head) couldn't formulate a coherent thought, but her stomach and lower body stirred with a long dormant sensation.

She felt Jane pull away, and Maura reluctantly released her hold. "Good night Jane," she said, impressed she was able to keep her voice steady.

"Good night Maura," the detective replied, giving her a famous Rizzoli half-smile, half-smirk.

As the door closed behind her, Jane's conscious congratulated her on making it through such an emotional evening. And I even managed not to admit that I didn't think you could find the love of your life at seventeen. The thought bounced around in her head as she drove back to her one bedroom apartment. If I had known I was wrong, I would never have let her go, she reflected, thinking about all the losers she had dated since she'd been with Maura. But who knows what could happen now?

Thank you to everyone who read this story, subscribed to it, marked it as a favorite, and especially reviewed it. I like to think of the ending as the jumping off point for all future Rizzles!

BTW – I was four months pregnant when I started this story and now tomorrow/today (depending on your time zone) I'll be giving birth to twins! I'll probably be off writing for awhile but I'll still be a reader.

Hope you enjoyed the story. I love reviews – they make all of us writers feel like it is worth it to write – so I hope you'll share what you think!