AN: We've come to the end of the line, everybody. I hope you enjoyed the ride.
(oh and ps - I might be going through and editing things here and there, just sprucing it all up a bit. So, if you've "favorited" or "followed," you might get email updates saying new chapters have been posted. Fingers crossed this doesn't happen. But if it does, just know it's only grammar updates.)
"Heading out, partner?"
"I've got to stop by the store and pick up a few things," she answers, attempting a scowl, but failing to mask the small smile she's been wearing all day. "You coming tonight?"
"Of course," he nods, leaning back in his swivel chair and stretching. "Wouldn't miss it," he smirks and she glares at him, swatting him on the shoulder as she passes.
"Seven o'clock," she orders. "Don't be late." And the salute he gives her as she leaves is more than a little sarcastic.
"Yes, ma?" she sighs, holding the phone to her ear with her shoulder as she unlocks her car and slips into the driver's seat.
"Are you stopping at the store?"
"Yes, ma. You gave me the list last night, remember?"
"Of course I do. But, well, I-"
"What else do you need?" She growls, looking both ways before pulling out into traffic. "You'll probably have to just text it to me," she admits before her mother has a chance to start running through the extremely long list of items she forgot about the night before.
But that doesn't stop the matriarch from launching herself full speed ahead into the list. Jane groans, but she still can't shake that smile.
"Rutabaga?" she mutters to herself, staring incredulously at the list on her phone. "Who the hell needs rutabaga for anything?"
It happens as she scans the produce section, searching for the offending root vegetable. The man is talking quickly into his cell phone and doesn't seem to see her as he pushes his way past her in the small aisle. She freezes immediately as the scent of his aftershave washes over her. He grunts an apology, moving on quickly, but she's stuck in place. She's tied to a bed. There is a man leaning over, kissing along her jaw, running his hands over her body as if she is his property and he her master. Her heart beat suddenly pounding her ears, the edges of her vision turning black, her breath coming in quick, short gasps. She grips the handle of the cart so tightly her knuckles turn white. She forces herself not to react more than that though. Her feet want to move, to carry her away, as far from danger as possible. But. She isn't in danger. She's fine. She's in a Whole Foods in the middle of Beacon Hill.
"Jane. My name is Jane Rizzoli. I work for the Boston Police Department. I have brown hair. I have brown eyes. My mother's name is Angela. Jane. I am Jane." She continues the litany under her breath, keeping her eyes closed. Short and to the point sentences. Reminding herself who she is. There's nothing to fear. She's perfectly safe. And when she starts to feel calmer, when she can breathe in for five seconds at a time, she opens her eyes, blinking in the harsh glare of the fluorescent lights. She's fine. She's safe. It takes another few moments, but eventually she's able to unclench her hands and shake them out, and then, staring pointedly ahead, careful not to look around to see if anyone might have noticed her lack of control just then, she moves off, pushing the cart in front of her, towards the rutabagas over in the back corner.
The panic attacks are less frequent now, but her triggers are still there, even now, a year and a half later. But with each attack, it takes less and less time for her to calm herself down. For a time she could hardly stand to be out in public, where at any moment a man might rub up against her accidentally. But now, well, she's working on it.
"Jane! Where have you been?" her mother sounds almost hysterical.
"Relax, ma. Jesus. It just took me a little longer at the store that's all."
Her mother offers her a quick, searching glance, as though she knows, simply by her daughter's tone of voice, exactly why it took a bit longer. She decides it's better not to make a big deal out of a small thing however – completely out of character for her - but, "Well, hurry up and bring in the groceries. People are going to start showing up any minute! And you've still got to get the grill going."
"It's just the family," Jane mutters under her breath.
But her mother hears because she glares at her threateningly, "Frankie's bringing that new girlfriend of his and I want us to all make a good first impression."
"It's not a job interview, ma. We aren't being graded," except she heads for the garage and another load of groceries immediately after she says it so as not to get smacked.
It's getting dark and the back lights have been turned on, flooding the lawn in a soft, illuminated glow. Frost and Frankie are chatting up on the porch. Frankie's got his arm around his date, Ruth, a firefighter, who Jane, as much as she wants to play the suspicious older sister card, finds herself liking quite a lot. Tommy is further out on the grass, tossing a baseball back and forth with Korsak. They won't be able to see it much longer though, as it spirals through the darkening air, a white spot against the black sky. Her mother's in the kitchen, probably getting herself worked up about dessert.
The detective raises her beer to her lips and takes a small sip. It's early June, the first real summer night they've had in months, and she smiles when she spots a firefly blinking a few feet away. She leans back in her chair, studying the stars, just not starting to wink into view. This is what happiness feels like, she is sure. Contentment. Family.
But when two arms snake around her from behind and a chin comes to rest against her shoulder, soft, short blonde curls pressing against her own dark ones, she relaxes completely.
"What are you thinking about, detective?" the hot air from the murmured question sends a shiver down her spine when it comes into contact with her skin.
"It's impossible to think about nothing."
"Do you have studies to back that statement up?" she asks, moving as if to turn around and face the other person, but the arms around her tighten and so she stays still.
"Are you lying to me?"
"I would never." A pause, while they both watch Tommy get in the head with a ball he could no longer see. "What were you thinking about, detective?" the question comes again.
This time Jane reaches down to lace their fingers together, bringing the other woman's hand up to her lips and placing a gently kiss there. "I was thinking about summertime and fireflies."
"Two of my favorite things."
"Mmm," she murmurs noncommittally.
"Something else on your mind?"
"It's been a long time since I've been this…happy," she admits, with something akin to embarrassment.
"Me, too," the other woman's admission comes much more easily, as she walks around the chair to stand at Jane's side, their hands still loosely entangled together. With her other hand, she reaches up to massage the base of detective's skull.
But Jane, stands, wrapping her arm around the other woman's waist as though she's been doing it every day for her entire life.
"I love you."
"I love you, too." This is an easy exchange. They do it every day. Twice a day. Three times a day. As much as they can. Over breakfast. Before heading off to their respective floors at work. Right before they fall asleep. In the bathroom, while one is brushing her teeth and one is applying her mascara. After the red sox hit a homerun and Jane spills beer on the carpet in her excitement. When there isn't any reason to. When there is every reason to.
"Do you believe in luck?" Jane asks, because she's been thinking about it, and it seems that's the answer, the only plausible answer for the way things managed to work out the way they have. She runs quickly through the past two years. Life and luck and love and loss and leaving and returning. For a moment it's as if she can see all the possible scenarios that might have taken place branching out from where they are standing now. Each break in the road, fork in the path, potential lives spread out in a map of lost possibilities, just-missed heartbreaks, forgotten laughter, full water towers of tears that would never be shed, empty buildings of timelines that would never be taken. Everything. For just a single moment, she is the keeper of all of their possible paths.
"I believe we live in a universe where potential and possibility come together at a head with each and every decision made," the blonde replies, unsure exactly where her detective's mind has drifted and unaware that she's put Jane's thoughts perfectly into words.
"Maura," Jane turns fully, searching intelligent hazel eyes for any spark of insincerity or regret. "Is this the life you would have chosen?"
"If I got to choose?"
"Yes," the medical examiner answers softly, staring firmly back. "A million times. Yes." And when she stands up on tip toe, having kicked off her heels before dinner, to kiss Jane gently on the cheek, the taller woman's eyes close of their own accord, taking in the moment and filing it away for another day. Here, on a cool June evening, with her family spread out around her, the rough wooden floorboards of the porch beneath her feet, alive and well and happy, Jane isn't sure that she believes in Luck or Fate or Chance. But she is quite sure that she believes in Love and in this woman standing before her. When Maura's lips leave her cheek, Jane reaches up to cup Maura's pink cheek in her palm. No, she isn't sure what she believes in, except for the here and now. There has been hurt and loneliness and fear in their past, and all such things stand in their future. But there is also the potential for happiness, pure, unadulterated bliss, and she is going to grab it if she can, no matter what.
"Jay," Maura asks.
"Would you? Choose this route, if you could?" And there still exists a feeling of vulnerability in Maura's tone, the thickly veiled readiness in her stance to flee if the answer is no, the preparation in the tension of her muscles to accept the blow if Jane does not return the sentiment.
But, "Maur." And when hazel eyes meet brown, the detective softens the fierceness of her tone with a smile and a kiss of her own. "A million times. Yes."
That's it, folks. That's all she wrote. There was no way for me to make each and every one of you happy and pleased with the end of this story. So, to be honest, I didn't try. I struggled with how to end this. Because when I set out, there was no question that there would be a happy ending, but as I wrote and as the characters began to dictate the direction, there seemed to be no other way, but to end it in tragedy. And this ending, here, isn't realistic. Y'all are right about that, and I know it. I'm with ya, those of you who are pissed that Maura is seemingly alive and well in this epilogue. Because, yes. If this were the real world, she would most likely have passed away. I also didn't provide you all with an explanation of how we got from 45 to here, or why, or what happened, or the conversations that transpired, or anything. And, as a reader who likes to know what's going on myself, I would feel justifiably upset about that fact. HOWEVER. (and take it or leave it, this is the truth as i saw it as i was writing). When we read works of fiction or watch stories played out on our television screens week after week, we, has humans, have a tendency to fall in love with fictional characters. That's part of the reason we write out their stories, embellish them, throw them around in different universes. We love them. We treat them like members of our family, letting them into our homes and our hearts. And this is the way these characters wanted this story to end. Maybe you have a different idea, and the characters you grew attached to throughout the reading of this story have a different ending. That's okay. That's perfectly valid. So end it how you want to end it, but this is how I will end my part of the telling. And with a thank you. So heartfelt and grateful a thank you that I'm not even sure how to put it into words. Thank you so much for reading, for yelling at me in your reviews and crying and laughing and sending me encouragement. Y'all are wonderful. And this fandom is wonderful. And I kind of can't believe the journey this story took me on. I hope to see y'all around someday. Keep reading, keep getting attached, keep creating. Love.