A/N: Thank you so much for sticking this out with me, guys. I have to say, writing this last chapter was sort of bittersweet for me, and it was really difficult to try and get the tone right, but hopefully I succeeded in getting across what I wanted to. Thanks for all the love and support. (Also, the last bit starts with sort of an homage to Ethan Frome, so... have fun finding that, if Wharton's your thing.)

It felt a little strange to go from a rousing party in a packed house full of people to the dark, open, empty outdoors, but Jane was satisfied with it. She and Maura had made it known in front of everybody how important they were to each other, but at least for now, Jane wanted to keep some of her more intimate feelings just between the two of them. Maura felt much the same way, already embarrassed at how many tears she had shed in front of other people and nearly dreading how much more she knew her eyes were about to flood.

They stood on their back porch for a few silent moments, holding each other's hands and staring out at the stars. Jane only got the nerve to speak up when she felt Maura gently squeeze her hand.

"Uh…I didn't think this through so good. Should we, um… stay standing up like this? Or sit down, or…"

"Let's lie on the grass a little while," Maura suggested, leading Jane down the steps and into the yard.

"Should I get a blanket to lie on?" Jane offered.

"No, I'm feeling a little reckless tonight," Maura said with a hint of a laugh in her voice. They sat nearly in unison, and before Maura could lie all the way down, Jane slipped her arm beneath Maura's shoulders. Maura shifted onto her side to give Jane's cheek a quick kiss before returning her gaze back up to the stars. "You know why I wanted to do this, right?"

"You're thinking of the…second night we met?" Jane guessed.

"Correct," Maura said. "Actually, I've thought of that night often."


"Yes. Most frequently when you were away. I would stare out the window endlessly and wonder if you were looking at the sky, too, wherever you were. Occasionally I would even find myself doing that when I was in the company of others and I was still out."

Jane had to laugh at that. "Maura, I did that, too. I'd be lookin' for constellations and wishing you could point them out to me. I still ain't so good at findin' 'em myself." A brief pause followed this statement, as she wasn't sure if Maura wanted her to keep talking or if she would have preferred silence for meditative contemplation. Jane ultimately figured that if Maura wanted quiet, she would let it be known, and so ventured forth more conversation: "I remember that night was the first time I touched your hand."

A soft, satisfied sigh issued out of Maura's lips. "Yes, it was. But you wouldn't hardly let me touch yours. I think I understand why, now. It was the scars, wasn't it?"

Jane's voice was cracked when she responded, "Yeah. I didn't …want… to burden you with those."

Maura turned on her side again, but Jane kept her gaze on the stars. "You know that isn't a problem now, don't you, Jane?"

"Yes," she whispered.

"Good. Because nothing that's ever happened to you or been said to you or you been done to you is a burden. Not to me. The only burden that could exist would be if you were to keep things a secret from me."

As was often her way, Jane tried to cover up her emotions with a jocular attitude: "No secrets, huh?" she chuckled, turning her head to look at Maura. But Maura was entirely somber and not all humorous when she solemnly shook her head in reply. This got Jane to appropriately sober up, and she said, "Honest, Maura—if I tell ya something, would ya promise not to laugh?"

"I'd never laugh at you, Jane. What is it?"

"It's about that night—um, the one where we were doing this," Jane said quickly, resting on her back again. "I was just… we fell asleep, remember?"

"Oh, yes. When I woke up again, I was in bed, and then…"

Neither of them mentioned the next step, which had involved Jane leaving town with no word. Instead, Jane went on, "Korsak came and found us and woke me up. He wanted I should wake you up, too, but I wanted to try carryin' ya if I could."

Jane paused here for so long that Maura assumed that was all she'd wanted to say in the firs place. "Why would I have laughed at that?" she asked gently.

"'Cause I ain't done yet," Jane snorted. "I thought you looked like an angel, Maura. Everythin' about ya—that's what I pictured angels to look like and be like. I hadn't ever met anyone like ya before. You were sweet, and tender, and sincere. You wanted to help people, and you made the world a better place just by existing. You didn't hardly know me, and ya started right in tryin' to help me. I didn't think anyone'd ever wanna do that. No person, at least. I'd even started thinkin' the angels had given up on me. But you were there… you were all light, and fresh, and just…" She inclined her head towards Maura again to see that she was tearing up. Jane let out a short sigh. "You were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen."

They met in a kiss, Jane shifting fully onto her side and threading her fingers through Maura's hair. A moan reached Jane's ears, but she wasn't sure if it had come from her or Maura as one tongue met another in earnest. All she knew for certain was just how much she needed this, and how awful it would have been to face a lifetime without it.

They broke apart only when a piteous howling sound jarred them from the privacy of this moment. For a second Maura wildly wondered if it might be a coyote (the only thing that could have made this occasion further resemble their first night of starwatching), but then Jane sighed and said, "I forgot—I've still got Jo shut up in the bedroom!"

"Do you think she wants to come outside?" Maura asked, fighting for breath.

"Maybe so. I'll go get her—don't you go anywhere." Jane got quickly to her feet, then smiled and looked down at Maura. "Hey, maybe we'll have witnesses for this after all!"

A few moments later, Jane's returned was heralded by Jo springing down the porch steps, running around with all the pent-up energy of a dog who'd been closed in a small space for too long. Maura laughed when she saw that Jane had opened the sitting room window and set Bass' crate on the wide sill, so he could feel included also.

"That fella's gettin' pretty heavy," Jane chuckled, flexing her arms. "What've you been feeding him?"

"Nothing fattening!" Maura insisted, getting to her feet and walking over. "According to the handbook, he's in the right weight bracket for his age." She gave Bass' shell a gentle pat, then grinned and sat next to Jane on the top porch step. "That was also the second day we'd known each other. The day you gave me Bass, I mean."

"Hey yeah, it was."

"I think that's when I realized you were really someone special," Maura said softly, taking Jane's hand. "I mean obviously I knew right away that you were different, but… when you cared enough to have really listened to me, and then brought me something that I could love without fearing its abandonment, that was really—that was really…"

Jane brushed her hand against Maura's cheek, keeping it there and saying, "You know Bass isn't the only one who won't abandon you, right?" When Maura nodded at her with watery eyes, Jane continued with a straight face, "Jo Friday won't ever leave you, either."

Maura laughed and slapped Jane's shoulder. "What a comfort."

"In all seriousness, though," Jane said, standing up and taking Maura's hand. "Let's get this started."

"All right," Maura said quietly, reaching for Jane's other hand. "Would you like to start, or shall I?" Then, without another moment's hesitation, she said, "Offer withdrawn. I'm going first." When Jane raised her eyebrows and laughed, Maura hastened to explain, "I know whatever you say is going to make me cry harder than I am now, and I won't be able to say my vows coherently. I'd really like for you to be able to understand what I want to say to you."

"Okay, that's fair," Jane chuckled. "Hm. See? That's what I meant when I said you could be bossy and still be soft and polite. You're always gonna get your way with me, Maura. You go ahead and go first."

"Oh goodness, I forgot myself for a moment," Maura said. "It's a good thing you brought Jo out here—Josephine! Jo Friday!" At the sound of her name, Jo perked up from where she'd been rolling around on the other side of the yard, and when she made out the sight of Maura waving her over, she obediently bounded back in the direction of the house. Jane looked on in bewildered amusement as Maura bent down slightly and said, "Go get it, Jo! Go get it!"

It took Jo a second, but then she remembered what this command from Maura was intended to mean. Jane asked what it was about when Jo scampered around to the front of the house, but Maura just told her to be patient. Within half a minute, Jo came running back with a small beaded bag in her teeth. Jane automatically bent down to pick it up, but Jo would relinquish the bag only to Maura, who took it with a smirk.

"Oh, so you two are conspiring against me now, huh?" Jane asked.

"If you call this conspiring," Maura said, opening the bag and pulling out the ring Jane had chosen for herself. "You bought it, so I wanted to at least have some way of surprising you with it. Your hand, please." Giving Maura one of the deep-dimpled grins she adored so much, Jane lifted her right hand, and Maura cleared her throat and took it. "If we were going to do this technically, I would have to say that yes, you chose this ring. But I'm the one giving it to you now, and putting it on you. Jane Clementine Rizzoli."

Upon saying the name, Maura gave Jane's hand a reassuring squeeze, and Jane did not avert her gaze again. Jane was finding it difficult to maintain a steady heartbeat, a steady rhythm to her breathing. She had heard Maura say her full name before, but there was something entirely different about the way it sounded now. There was a seriousness, a reverence, in Maura's tone that Jane had not been expecting, and she was painfully aware of the fact that her hand was trembling as Maura slid the ring onto her finger.

For her part, Maura seemed to be holding up relatively well. "This ring symbolizes all that I have felt, do feel, and will feel towards you. Its circular shape is representative of how for a while now, it's seemed that everything in my life circles back to you. Something good happens, and I want to share it with you. Something makes me sad, and I want to cry on your shoulder. I wake up feeling excited for the day and wondering what we'll do, and then that night I'll fall asleep hoping that I can dream about you, so that no time is wasted." She glanced down, tracing her finger along the ring—"Things can be going very smoothly, and then we might hit a rough patch," she said, tapping the small turquoise stone that jutted out of the silver. "But we find a way around it, and the circle keeps going."

Maura looked up from the ring when she felt a small drop of water splash on her hand. Jane was anxiously wiping at her eyes with the back of wrists, and when Maura smiled at her, she laughed and said, "What, you're the only one who's allowed to get emotional at stuff like this?"

"I should certainly hope not," Maura replied. "Jane, in spite of some of the more frightening things we've had to face together, I know you are the best thing that's ever happened to me. You're the one who made me feel as though I could have a place here, a home here. You've done more than anyone else to help me adapt to this environment. Perhaps in time I'd have figured it out for myself, but you sped up the process considerably, and you made it enjoyable. You are someone in whom I can confide entirely and shamelessly. Also, I think you are the only thing in my life I've ever really fought for." She shrugged. "I became accustomed to people and patients underestimating my abilities because I was a woman, and I was content to let my actions speak for themselves. Other times, I just let Garrett stand up for me. I didn't believe there was anything I could do to change my situation or the way people perceived me. I think I let myself become passive.

"You forced me to change that, whether you meant to or not. I've taken risks here and done things I never would have dreamt of a year ago, and I regret none of it. For once, I really stood up for myself and fought for my own happiness—which, as you said, it is our job to pursue. All of it was done for your sake, Jane, because I love you so much and you mean everything to me. Having gone through so much of my life without knowing you, I know what the alternative would be if you weren't in it. I know there are so many things I can look forward to with you that I never would have even imagined before I met you, and that excites me beyond words. I know there will be hard times ahead for us, and that our life together won't always be one happy event after another. But you have brought so much joy, so much energy, so much determination in to my already enthusiastic approach to life, that I don't see how anything could permanently come between us. My vow is to always stand up for you, stand with you, and fight for you, for as long as we both shall live."

Going first hadn't at all kept Maura from crying, but even as there was an occasional sudden pause in her words to try and catch her breath, she was still comprehensible. Jane meanwhile still found herself in awe of the fact that somebody had come up with these sentiments for her, and she was indescribably grateful for everything Maura had said and shared. She rummaged around in her pockets for a little while, and glancing up, noticed that Maura was giving her a confused look.

"I know I already put your ring on ya," Jane said. "I was just lookin' for—ah, here it is." She pulled a small, worn-looking piece of paper from her pocket and tried to study it best she could with only the moon providing her light.

"Did you write yours out?" Maura asked, sounding very moved. She had written her own down and memorized it, but she knew that for Jane to do the same would have been very much a labor of love.

"Well, I was afraid I'd forget somethin' if I didn't," Jane explained, quickly trying to finish reading it. "And—I dunno, this way I could make sure I got everything out and made it sound as perfect as I wanted it to. You know, so it'd sound proper."

After a brief hesitation, Maura asked, "What're you going to do with it? I mean… can I keep it after tonight?"

"You may want to hear it before ya ask somethin' like that," Jane chuckled. "And besides, I know there's probably a lot of spellin' mistakes in it." The semi-darkness made words difficult to read, but reading Maura's expression was much easier when Jane stole a glance at it. "Yes, Maura. Of course you can have it."

"Thank you," Maura said, taking Jane's hands once the paper had been slipped back into Jane's pocket (she didn't want to read straight from it). "Let's hear it, then."

Jane mouthed the word "bossy" before clearing her throat to try and speak in as clear a voice as possible: "Maura, you know as well as anybody that I ain't had a real easy life. Seems like for as long as I can remember, somethin' was always off, or goin' wrong. And I don't just mean what happened to my parents. There've been days where I thought I'd get baked to a crisp under the sun—no rain, no clouds. I've known how it feels to just about die of thirst when there ain't no water around. I've known how it feels to be starved. I been shot at and cut and thrown from a horse more times than I could ever count, and I didn't always get the help I needed right away. So I was left hurtin' or thirsty or hungry for a real long time, now and then. It was always a relief when I'd finally get what I needed. It seemed like just enough to keep me goin', and I'd make it through somehow.

"You, Maura Isles, you…have done more to resurrect me than anything else I have ever come across. Your smile is cloud cover on a hot day. Your laugh is the best healin' power there is. Your voice and your words are richer than any feast I could ever encounter to stave off hunger. The feel of your arms around me and the feeling of your lips on mine…" Her voice was getting quieter, but because they were standing so close together, Maura didn't need to strain her ears to hear. "That's my water of life.

"When I was a kid, my Pop never made me feel like there was nothin' I couldn't do or couldn't be—sorta like yours, I reckon. And I don't have any proof, but I felt sometimes like I was Pop's favorite. He told me he didn't ever want that I should change myself to get a man. I don't know that my mother would've agreed with him, bein' the lady she was, but Pop said any man who'd love me would accept me, warts and all. I—uh…I don't really have warts," she added in a whisper.

Maura wanted to say she knew that, but was finding it difficult to form words. So she settled for nodding understandingly as she laughed lightly through her tears.

"So anyhow, I think I kinda just grew up with that idea in my head," Jane went on. "When I got older, Angela kept tryin' to change me. She did it in her nosey but loving way, y'know, 'cause she only wanted the best for me. But we clashed on things. I was a stubborn ass. I didn't think I should have to change for any man or anybody, that much I felt sure about. I just sorta figured if I ever did wanna be with somebody, they'd take me as I was. I was too proud to settle for anything less.

"But Maura?" She took a deep breath to steady herself. "Thank you for makin' me into more than I was. I don't think ya even knew you were doin' it half the time, but ever since I've known ya, you've been makin' me a better person. I had strength and I had pride built up in a wall eight feet thick around me, but you knocked it down like it was made of paper. I didn't ever like havin' other people tell me what to do or where to go, but you reigned me in, no problem. I found myself wantin' to do anything you asked, and I… I changed. Not entirely, of course—I'm still me, I'm still loud and pretty out there, I know. But you made me better 'cause you weren't afraid to try. You made it so I wanted to learn things again. You helped me see dancin's maybe not so bad, so long as I've got the right partner. You've helped me want to drink less. You showed me there were still exciting things to be found in a society I turned my back on. I can see so much better, so much clearer now. You're like a compass—I was just goin' around with no real direction in sight, and you've helped give me that direction. Ya didn't try to force me to change. You just made me want to."

Jane worried that, caught up in the moment, she might have started repeating herself. She was reassured by the look on Maura's face that quite blatantly expressed Jane was going in a good direction.

"See this ring?" she asked, lifting Maura's hand and poking the jewelry. "It ain't typical, just like you ain't typical. But it's beautiful, ain't it? Just in a different way, a way that nobody else can claim." Her finger traced over the ring just as Maura had done earlier with Jane's. "It's smooth sometimes, and other times it's more bumpy. That's us. Everything I ever done before I met you feels like the shadow of emotion. My greatest happiness has been with you, my greatest sorrows have been a result of lettin' you down, and my greatest fears have only ever been realized when you were in danger—for my sake. It ain't gonna all be one smooth ride, but I know it'll be more than worth whatever problems come our way. I see you, Maura, and I finally feel…"

She took a shuddering breath, trying to remember the word she had chosen. Jane felt sure that she had already forgotten most of what she'd painstakingly written down, and probably butchered the rest. But this was harder to get through than she had anticipated, considering that she was blinking back tears and feeling about ready to drown in the look of absolute adoration Maura was giving her.

"Lately, every time I look at you," she slowly, bravely, attempted, "I feel complete. I see the person I'm supposed to be with, and then also person I'm supposed to become. I just… I know. I wasn't really sure where my life was headed, and I sure as hell didn't know what I'd do if I ever caught up with the man who killed my parents, but now I do. This is my vow: I am gonna spend every day we are together makin' you feel like the treasure you are. I'm gonna teach ya, and learn from ya, and show you places you ain't ever seen before, if you'll do the same. I vow to always do my very best to protect you, help provide for you, and make you feel loved …for as long as we both shall live."

As soon as those last words left Jane's lips, Maura threw her arms around Jane's neck and pulled her down into a kiss. She wanted it to convey and confirm everything she had just said to Jane and everything she had felt upon hearing Jane's words—every tender, every sweet, every loving moment that had ever passed between them was exchanged in that kiss; any and all insecurities and concerns had long been ebbed away by the growing layers of trust and committed devotion.

The kiss had started out very chastely and gently but had quickly ratcheted up in terms of intensity, to the point that their labored breathing had drowned out all the sounds of the wilderness surrounding them. What had begun as a demonstration of heartfelt emotion had been joined by a sudden and desperate need to impress each other—a battle which Jane quickly won by stooping and sweeping Maura up into her arms.

"You didn't think I forgot this was part of my job, did ya?" Jane asked, somewhat breathlessly, smirking down at Maura as she walked back towards the house.

With Bass securely in his crate and Jo lying down in the yard, Jane kicked open the door to the house and let it swing shut behind her as she walked determinedly towards the bedroom. She felt Maura's arms tighten slightly around her neck, which made her wonder if Maura was as nervous about this as she was. In an odd way, this bolstered Jane's confidence: here, instead of one of them holding an intellectual or physical edge over the other, they were both on the same emotional plane.

They had reached the bedroom. Jane carefully set Maura down on the edge of their bed, then knelt down in front of her and with surprising composure, slid one shoe off after the other. Going as much by touch as she was by sight, Jane carefully set the shoes on the floor by the foot of the bed. There were no drapes on the high-up window in their room yet, but the moon wasn't providing quite enough light for Jane's liking.

"What is it?" Maura asked nervously, her voice little more than a whisper when Jane looked up at her.

"It's too dark," Jane said quietly back. "I want to be able to see you."

Maura stood up and instructed Jane to take her place on the bed. On her bare feet she padded silently over to the desk Jane had earlier hauled into the room and lit the lamp that was sitting on top of it. A soft, earthy glow was cast into the room, strangely calming in its effect as Maura returned to the bed. Jane had already taken off her boots and was about to stand up again before Maura shook her head and got down on her knees where Jane had been a few moments ago.

Jane was sure she didn't breathe for the next minute or so as Maura moved her hands to undo the buckle of Jane's belt, slowly pulling out the strap. She heard Jane gasp softly, and she looked up. Jane didn't look regretful, just anxious. Maura leaned upwards, giving Jane a gentle kiss on the lips as she pulled the belt out of its loops.

"Okay," Jane said quietly, taking Maura's hands when they reached her gun-holding holster. "I'll get it." She gingerly took off the holster, laying it on the floor between her boots and Maura's shoes. "Guess it wouldn't do to have that go off, would it?"

"Most likely not," Maura said, silently grateful for Jane's attempt to lighten the mood.

But things got quite serious again very quickly. "All right, turn around," Jane requested, and Maura silently obeyed.

Jane stood up and began the arduous process of untying, unbuttoning, and de-lacing Maura's dress—the joke being that this was one of the simpler ones the doctor had ever worn. Beneath it was only one slip, which she easily stepped out of, eventually leaving Maura in nothing but a corset and pantalets. She had very purposefully chosen not wear a layer beneath the corset, because she thought it would make her chest more pleasing to look at; and if Jane had been thinking, it might have occurred to her to turn Maura around for a look. As it was, neither of them really had the idea of stopping at this point.

Maura pushed her hair to one side of her neck as Jane reached for the top knot of the corset and worked her way down. Each untied lace brought new centimeters of bare skin—skin Jane had never seen, never come close to seeing. A long v of bare, back skin was exposed by the time Jane had reached the last knot. When it came undone, the corset opened slightly, just asking to be removed. Jane didn't wait for Maura to verbalize the invitation; she just gulped and gently pulled the garment off.

Before Maura could even summon the courage to turn around, Jane placed her hands carefully on Maura's waist and kissed the back of her neck, smelling her hair. Unconsciously she tightened her grip on Maura's waist, moving her hands slowly around to clasp in front of Maura's stomach, pulling her back, as close as possible. A fire had been lit somewhere in Jane, a spark going off as reality crashed in on her with the subtlety of a charging steed: anything and everything she had dared dream for-and more-was about to happen.

"Jane," Maura whispered, and she got a soft moan in return. Jane knew she would never tire of hearing her name said this way, like it was holy, like it was new. Maura moved her arm back, resting her hand on Jane's neck, encouraging her as Jane continued to nip at her neck. "Jane…" She seemed to have intuited how important it was to Jane that in this very reminiscent position, she hear her name, and often, not Jake's.

Jane remained silent, her lips moving down to Maura's shoulder as her hands stroked slowly upwards. Her thumbs rubbed small circles on Maura's back as her other fingers caressed the equally smooth planes of Maura's stomach. She gently pulled herself out of Maura's loose grip, moving to kiss a line along the other shoulder. As she did this, her hands shifted of their own accord, moving upwards on Maura's arms. Feeling them entirely bare for the first time, Jane found herself impressed by how strong they felt. She gently squeezed both hands and felt Maura reflexively tense, her muscles taut. Jane's breath caught; her hips rolled forward and her fingers ran up and down Maura's biceps. She had never encountered soft strength like that before.

Maura couldn't handle this anymore. She turned swiftly on the spot, throwing her arms around Jane's neck and practically yanking her down into a passionate kiss. The smaller woman whimpered at the feeling of Jane's strong arms bringing her closer into the kiss, and Jane was likewise lost in the feel of so much bare skin beneath her. She roved her hands over Maura's back, sporadically letting her fingers curl into Maura's hair, all the while kissing her again and again. Two fists collided with her collar as Maura struggled to unbutton Jane's top, just barely managing to maintain their voracious kiss, but Maura was impatient and couldn't even bring herself to undo all the buttons. Once she'd finished all but three or four, she realized there was no undershirt or union suit beneath Jane's top, and quickly reached inside the semi-opened shirt to pull Jane closer. To help further accomplish this goal, she also found herself hooking one leg around Jane's, leaving absolutely no space between them. Maura traced her tongue along the length of Jane's parted lips, and she felt Calamity Jane go weak at the knees. Their tongues were soon clashing again and Maura moaned deeply; Jane loved how the sound felt inside of her mouth. She also loved the way her own abdominal muscles tensed in response to Maura's touch. Normally she might've been embarrassed, knowing the sensitive doctor could probably feel it too, but Jane was too busy being thrilled that someone could make her feel this way to care.

At some point Jane's vest wound up on the floor by her boots, but before Maura could pull Jane's shirt off entirely, Jane guided her down onto the bed again. She had planned immediately to resume kissing her, but as she hovered over Maura, Jane found herself momentarily unable to move. Now she was getting her first real look at Maura in this position—naked emotionally, if not entirely physically, yet. She grasped Maura's right hand with her own and their rings knocked together, the clinking sound bringing a smile to Jane's lips.

They belonged entirely to each other.

"M…Maura," she stammered, summoning the most reverent tone she could as her gaze traversed Maura's body. "You're so beautiful."

She was too nervous to give Maura a chance to respond, and simply leaned down to pick up where she'd left off. Jane kissed Maura's neck, then traveled down to her collar bone, ultimately steadying herself with a deep breath before moving lower. Maura gasped loudly at the sensation, arching her back off the bed, trying to give as much of herself to Jane as possible. She could only gulp vainly for air as Jane let her tongue, teeth, and lips go to work.

"Jane," she panted. "Jane—!"

As much as it killed her to do so, Jane pulled back, lifting herself up to look Maura in the face. "Are you all right?" she asked, worried that Maura's eyes were screwed shut in pain.

The low timbre of Jane's voice sent a tremor down Maura's spine, briefly reconnecting her to reality. It was somehow even deeper, even raspier than usual, as if it had come not from Jane's chest but from her abdomen, or lower. Maura opened her eyes and nodded. "I'm fine, I just—your hand. Give me your hand."

Looking uncertain, Jane nonetheless obeyed. Maura was too tired, too overwhelmed by pleasure and disbelief, to keep her eyes open, but it was all right: she had done this blindly before.

A few feverishly whispered instructions later, Maura released a sound that was unlike anything Jane had ever heard before, least of all from the generally restrained Dr. Isles. It was halfway between a growl and a moan, and Jane felt every fiber of her being reacting to it. She realigned herself so that she lay on her side next to Maura, keeping her one hand in place as the other braced Maura's shoulders; from here, Jane could see Maura's face contorting with what could be either pain or pleasure. "Is this all right?" she whispered anxiously.

"Yes," Maura finally choked out, and it was all she felt capable of articulating at the moment.

The obvious rapture in her tone encouraged and thrilled Jane just as much as the blatant physical response: Maura was writhing and arching, reaching one hand behind her to grasp at the headboard rails as if for dear life, the other burying itself in Jane's unruly hair. Jane shifted her position once more so that she could put her lips and tongue back to work on Maura's neck, just below her ear. The addition of this action catapulted Maura into a new level of ecstasy, and a significantly louder one at that. In an effort to quell the noise, Jane shifted again, putting her free hand behind Maura's neck and lifting her into a fierce, stifling kiss.

It wasn't long before one last great shudder led to a final collapse, and she held Jane tight to her. At the time she hadn't been cognizant enough to differentiate the moisture on her face as anything but sweat, but as her senses slowly came back to her, Maura recognized a few drops as tears. What she felt most of all were the tear-tracks standing out as Jane's breath broke against them. Sensing some sort of apex had just been reached, Jane withdrew and left a series of gentle kisses on Maura's sweat-streaked faced, placing a last, longer one on Maura's dry lips. Tired as she was, Maura's body forced her to respond, delicately placing a hand on Jane's cheek.

When Jane eventually pulled back and saw the tears on Maura's face, she didn't have to wonder or worry about why they were there. The look in Maura's eyes spelled out everything. Happiness, relief, satiation all in one.

"Maura?" Jane whispered, lying down next to her. But she didn't know what to ask or say.

It was hard for Maura to know what to say, either. She was very much awake and alive, but completely spent. She couldn't think to put her bliss into words. She had never felt so aware of every particle of her being, of the idea that the human soul not only existed but could be touched by another person. She had never expected to reach such a divine, high plane of euphoria in mortality. Somehow she knew this ecstasy hadn't come just because it was an intimate experience, but because Jane Rizzoli had brought her there. All of these disparate things were thoughts she wanted desperately to communicate, but had no energy to do so.

Mustering all the strength and breath she had left in her, Maura said, "Jane."

"Yes?" Jane asked attentively, taking Maura's hand when the woman weakly reached out.

Forcing her eyes open, Maura turned to meet Jane's gaze. "My sweet, sweet Jane. I love you… more than I can say."

Jane pressed her lips to the back of Maura's fingers in gratitude. Rather worn out herself, Jane assumed they would just be going to sleep now, but Maura had other plans. After about a quarter of an hour, she asked Jane in a whisper if she was still awake.

"Of course."

"Then it's your turn," Maura said quietly.

Before Jane could process or respond to this, she was pulled into a languid kiss. Maura rolled herself on top of Jane; they moved softly and slowly, tempering the rapidity of Jane's heartbeat. She tried to sit up slightly, propping herself up against the pillows and allowing Maura to fully straddle her. They maintained the kiss, and Maura let her hands trail slowly down Jane's chest. Unwilling to break the kiss, Maura struggled to blindly undo those last few buttons. When she tried to pull the shirt off, she felt Jane stiffen beneath her.

"Please, Jane," she whispered, looking determinedly into those soulful brown eyes. "Let me do this for you. Let go for me." She frowned at Jane's trembling lips, touching them at the corner. "Do you want this?"

"Yes," Jane breathed. "Do it, please." The last word was barely audible.

And she sat up enough to help Maura shrug off the shirt. Strangely, Jane's self-conscious fears—about being insufficient, about disappointing Maura, about opening up—all disappeared as she saw Maura drop the shirt on the floor and turn back to her. There was awe and veneration in those gorgeous hazel eyes as they roved over Jane's body. Maura wanted to say something, any simple thing, but her mind was blank. Actions would now have to speak for the loquacious doctor.

Maura leaned back down to start kissing again, carefully placing her hands on Jane's abdomen. She could feel Jane's breath hitch beneath her, not knowing it was because of the combination of Maura moaning into her mouth while her fingers traced Jane's bare skin, fingernails delicately scraping. Every old scar, every time-worn bruise on Jane's skin was forgotten with one touch of the healer's hand; a new slate. Nothing to be scared or ashamed of. Jane curled her fingers into Maura's soft hair, resting her other hand on the woman's hip. Maura was breathing hard, the ghosts of words on her lips constantly stifled by irrepressible moans laced with longing. She started moving her fingers in more massaging strokes, pressing hard against Jane's abs and stomach.

No words passed between them for the next several minutes: all communication was tacit and physical. One of Maura's knees was between Jane's legs, spreading them apart. The air in the room felt as though it was closing in on them, getting hotter and thicker with each passing second.

Upon first meeting Maura, Jane never would have guessed that this refined gentlewoman would ever be able to introduce her to any sort of new, wild experience. But this shared moment, this climax she was about to reach, was entirely uncharted territory to her and she could only have been brought there by Maura Isles.

A long silence passed before Jane managed to say something in a cracked, tired voice. "That was…so… Maura, it was so…"

"See? I told you," Maura chuckled as Jane trailed off. "It's impossible to describe." They shared a quiet laugh over it, and once it had died out, Maura grasped one of Jane's hands and kissed the scar on the back of it. "So. Jane Rizzoli. Whose are you?"

Jane grinned and squeezed her back. "I'm yours, Maura Isles. All yours."

Maura lay her head against Jane's shoulder and her arm over Jane's stomach. "Well in that case, I guess I'd better keep you." She smiled and knew she had to drop the sarcasm when Jane kissed her forehead, gripping her shoulder tightly. "And I guess we both win."

"Oh, we most certainly do."

Travelers got the account, bit by bit, from various people, and as is generally the case, each time it was a different story. Not unlike Jake Wyatt, Calamity Jane soon became a legend in her own right outside of her small town, due mostly to the fact that she was such an anomaly. If you know about Hollow Creek in Arizona, you must know about Calamity Jane and Dr. Isles. If you know about Calamity Jane and Dr. Isles, you must know of their independence, their popularity, and the unparalleled bond that keeps them together.

Confronted by Jane, you may wonder why there hasn't been a man brave enough to tame her, to make her his own. After all, in a landscape like this, tough women aren't particularly a terrible thing to have around. Approached by Dr. Isles, you may wonder why such a beautiful, refined lady has turned away several promising suitors. Does she value her education and career above finding a husband, as Jane seems to value her freedom over submission to a man?

To others it may seem perfectly obvious that Calamity Jane Rizzoli and Dr. Maura Isles had already found love with each other. Many would assume it is nothing more than an intensely close friendship and would even joke that Jane and Maura often bickered like an old married couple. However, now and then, one might speculate they shared the love that dares not speak its name.

But it doesn't need to. The love is there in every word, in every look, in every touch exchanged between them. It is unnatural to no one who knows them well that they share a bed, a home, a life. That's what you do when you love someone, regardless of what you may call it. Perhaps in their own way, they were blazing a trail—creating a path for a world where two strong, independent, professional women could be each other's best friend, not needing men to define their lives.

The secret, of course, is that in a sense, Jane Rizzoli had been tamed. Oh yes she could still raise hell, and yes she was frighteningly effective in her authoritative position as a deputy, but now she had someone to answer to—namely Maura Isles, and Maura Isles alone. Jane sent word if she'd be home late, she did her fair share of housework and even cooking. She was quicker to accept responsibility for her actions and slower to anger than anyone had ever known her. Maura likewise got her own crash-course in Western life, becoming more daring and more open under Jane's influence.

Without question, this was a life Maura Isles never could have dreamed of for herself. It had needed to be discovered and experienced.

It was not unusual for her to say—in any number of places or situations; wrapped in Jane's embrace, sitting with her on the porch, riding alongside her in a closed carriage—something along the lines of, "were I truly a gambling woman, I would bet real money that I couldn't wish for greater happiness than this. I don't think it would be possible."

And Jane would tease her, "You don't, huh?"

Maura would smile. "Of course, that's no excuse to get lazy…"

Fortunately for them both, Calamity Jane was always up for a challenge, and Maura Isles, as she was wont to be, wound up never being far behind.

The End.

A/N: For a more detailed thank-you/letter of appreciation to you, the reader, please (well, review first, if you want to make my day!) head over to my tumblr page (domain name is jobethdalloway; search the calamity jane tag there). It's been a blast, y'all. Thanks for helping me see this insanity through to the end! And to anyone who's read it now that it's complete, I honestly mean it when I say first of all, thanks for committing to such a long story- and second of all, reviews are always so appreciated, no matter how long the story's been done. Two weeks, two months, two years after this was finished, I don't care! Feedback is the best gift any writer can ask for :)
And the sequel is up! Hope you enjoy it.