A/N: So a few people asked whether I was going to finally post the promised epilogue to this fluff-fest, and, well, here it is! Sorry it's so late, but um, Christmas in July anyone? :D Cheers, and thanks for reading!
One Year Later
Jane could not remember a span of time when she had been happier. Twelve months of dating Maura Isles. Twelve months of planning dinners, family holidays, meeting parents, having arguments, making up, and making out. Twelve months of laughing, crying, frustrated phone calls and eye rolls and flowers and bunny pancakes. Something to work hard for besides the job. Something Jane actually wanted to fix when it broke down on occasion. In a year's time she grew in ways she didn't know possible: she became more courageous, more willing to talk things out. She'd gotten closer to her mother because of the special bond that Angela and Maura seemed to share.
For the first time in over a decade, Maura celebrated Easter. She went to a Fourth of July barbecue, afterwards making love to Jane while everyone else left to see fireworks and they could almost pretend those explosions were all in their heads. She helped hand out Halloween candy in a costume Angela had made for her (scrubs alone wouldn't do for an actual doctor). She was given the chance to prepare her own Thanksgiving turkey, using a recipe she'd been dying to try for ages.
Snow had first come in November, but there seemed to be an added romance to it when December finally arrived, and the Christmas spirit enveloped Boston entirely. Songs blasted from every store, tinsel hung on nearly every window, and large, electric snowflakes illuminated the streets on various lampposts.
As a surprise early Christmas gift for Maura, Jane had asked Mr. and Mrs. Isles if they would be able to spend the holiday in Boston. They said yes, and while the skeptical part of Jane thought that was only because Constance was giving a speech at a new exhibit at the Boston Fine Arts Gallery (and the timing worked out), she was glad they had arranged to stay through the new year.
On December 23rd, Maura was poring over some notes from a cold case in her office when her phone buzzed.
Yo, Dr. Death! Got some peeps up here who want a word.
You mean color-sugarcoated marshmallow fluff in the shape of a rabbit or chick? Do they want a word with my stomach? :)
(One of Maura's favorite Rizzoli family traditions she'd been introduced to were Jane and Frankie's Easter "peep wars," where they would both stick a toothpick in a peep, put them in a microwave, and see whose got stabbed by the other's toothpick first. That marked the first occasion Maura had ever tried a peep, and her sweet tooth grew instantly as a result.)
…peeps like people, Maura. Live ones. Can you come up for a sec?
Naturally curious, Maura headed for the elevators. On the way, she passed Susie, who appeared to be walking around in a bit of a daze. "Test results are in," she muttered. "I'm hungover."
"Had a little too much fun at the department holiday party last night?" Maura asked with a laugh.
"Why weren't you and Detective Rizzoli there?" Susie asked. "…or is that too personal of a question?"
"Not at all," Maura laughed. "Jane just asked if I would rather spend the night alone together, after we'd spent so much time here on the Barringer case. It felt good to celebrate in our own way and, well, on our own." Putting a hand slyly to the side of her mouth, she whispered, "If I went into any more detail, then it would be getting too personal!"
Susie just nodded and smiled back as Maura laughed. "Congrats on having a hot girlfriend."
Maura twirled into the elevator as it finally opened. "Thank you!" As she went up, she couldn't help whistling "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," Jane's favorite seasonal tune. Initially the song hadn't set well with her, but after meeting Frank Sr.'s formidable mother at a Rizzoli barbecue over the summer, Maura had to admit Jane's taste was understandable.
Jane was waiting for her at the elevator, and pulled her in for a quick kiss on the cheek as soon as Maura stepped out. Jane's shirt was a bold red color, foisted on her by Maura so they could match for the day—Maura's dress was an equally striking red, which looked quite nice when coupled with the dark green coat and gloves that were resting in her office. Shopping was not something Jane was particularly fond of, and Maura was the first person she'd ever allowed to actually shop for her. More often than not, items were returned, but there was the rare piece of apparel (like this red shirt) that Jane admitted looked pretty good.
"What's all the excitement about?" Maura asked, as Jane took her arm and led the way to the Division One Café.
"It's part one of your Christmas present this year," Jane said.
They entered the café, and there sat Constance and Desmond, chatting up Angela. Maura came to an automatic dead halt as soon as she saw them, rendered speechless by her shock at seeing them. There were smiles all around, and genuine ones at that, yet Maura still needed Jane to tug her elbow in order to get her fully into the café. Desmond was the first to sweep up, putting an arm around Maura and kissing her firmly on the forehead. Constance came up to her other side, kissing her on the cheek in greeting.
"Mother, father," Maura laughed, turning her head to look at both of them. "I didn't …I thought you were spending Christmas in Acapulco after mother came—alone—to speak at BFAC."
"Acapulco is lovely any time of year," Constance said. "But Boston in winter! Is there any better place one could spend it?"
"New York?" Desmond half-jokingly suggested.
"I swear, Des, you start talking up the Yankees again and you are dis-invited from our family's Christmas party," Jane said, pointing a finger at him warningly. He held his hands up in silent defeat and Jane grinned. They had all met when Maura had gotten Jane to accompany her to Paris over the summer, as her parents never seemed to be in the States at the same time.
Maura was still looking at her parents in disbelief. "I can't believe you pulled this off," she said to Jane. "How did you do it?"
"Ah, you know me," Jane said. "I'm sneaky, and you love that about me."
"I adore it," Maura corrected her, pulling away from her parents to give Jane a chaste kiss. "No but really, how did you manage it?"
"Wasn't that hard," Jane said with a shrug. "I guess it helped that your mother was coming anyway, and your folks are pretty agreeable people, Maura. You just gotta ask. So Pop picked 'em up from the airport this morning, brought 'em by the ole Rizzoli B&B for some coffee and muffins—" (which Maura struggled to imagine her mother going for, considering the types of products the Rizzoli's tended to keep in stock) "—but they insisted on dropping by to see you before crashing at your place."
"You're staying with me?" Maura asked excitedly.
"Dear, of course we are!" Constance laughed. "Jane informed us that you have a guest house, do you not?"
Maura gasped and turned back to Jane. "That's why you insisted on decorating it!"
"Exactly," Jane chuckled, kissing the top of Maura's head. "And you still didn't figure it out. You are the dumbest genius I know."
"But you love that about me," Maura threw back at her.
"Oh, Maura, I adore it."
Maura and Jane took an early lunch break to drive her parents (quite exhausted from their trip) to her home. They borrowed Angela's car, as that was where their luggage was still sitting. When they got inside Maura's home, Constance laughed in delight at seeing Maura's tree. It was strung with lights of various colors, and was relatively small given the size of Maura's home—but it fit the number of ornaments she had to decorate it, which weren't very many. Still it was a beautiful tree, and clearly a real one: with vague environmental notions, the Isles had bought a fake tree when Maura was seven and hauled it out of storage every year, when it would go on to be dressed by professionals in a very impersonal style.
As Jane and Maura helped Desmond bring the luggage through to the guesthouse, Constance sat on the sofa nearest the tree and leaned over to inspect the ornaments. She recognized various characters from the Nutcracker, and reasoned that those must have been gifts from Jane, since that ballet had been the site of their first date. And there, if she wasn't mistaken, was Charlie Brown, and Snoopy in a Santa hat, and … whatever that bird's name was on that show, she couldn't remember.
There was a polar bear eating an ice cream cone, and Constance recognized the style from a shop near their apartment in Paris. Santa and a reindeer sticking out of the windows of a New York City taxicab, with Santa's bag of toys on top of the car. Rudolph, a snowman voiced by Burl Ives, and a misfit toy. Santa dressed as a cop. Santa dressed as a doctor. Two stars that had probably been purchased at Swarovski's. A translucent dove that shone brightly, placed in front of a cluster of white lights. A ship with a wreath on its sail, Mayflower written on its side. An ice-skating penguin with a purple scarf. A tortoise. A little dog in a doghouse strung with lights and covered in snow.
Constance had always thought that Christmas trees were a bit kitschy, especially when people got maudlin or tacky about them. That's why their tree had always been decorated professionally: the only service it really provided was to be a backdrop for their extravagant holiday parties. Most people tended to let their trees get too cluttered with random ornaments, and Constance had never been one to let sentimentality override taste.
And yet, Jane and Maura's tree looked so beautiful to her.
She could not say for certain whether Maura had, for example, bought the Swarovski stars on her own or if Jane had gotten them for her. But Constance recognized most of the items as part of an exhibited scrapbook: they documented trips that Jane and Maura had taken together, shows they had enjoyed together, and liked things they had shared with each other. It didn't come off as tacky at all. It was personal. It felt intimate, each ornament almost like a postcard, giving the onlooker at least a hint of why it had wound up on its owner's tree.
"Not too fancy, I know." Constance looked up to see that Jane had since come in, and was walking towards her. "But Maura got a real kick out of cutting it down."
"You got the tree yourselves?"
"Yeah." Jane laughed at the memory, sitting next to Constance and openly admiring the tree. "There's this great farm about thirty miles north of here that my parents always took us to when we were growing up. It's run by the son of the guy who owned it when I was a kid, and you should've heard him laugh when he saw us give Maura the saw!"
"Taught him a lesson, huh?" Constance asked with a smirk.
"Oh, yeah. Maura got that sucker down faster than the combined efforts of my father and brother on another tree! I hope she likes it, but I got her a new bone saw for Christmas," Jane said, nodding at one of the gifts under the tree. "It's supposed to be able to cut a femur in less than twenty-eight seconds."
Meanwhile, Maura had just hung up the last of her mother's dresses as Desmond tiredly removed his shoes. He sat on the edge of the bed for a moment and Maura paused, wondering if he wanted to be left alone to sleep. But he patted the comforter next to him, and she quickly went to sit by his side.
"So," he said. "My girl. How're things? You happy?"
She beamed. "Yes."
"You sure about that?"
"Yes, dad. I'm so happy."
She didn't have to tell him anything more. She didn't have to say that with Jane, when an argument arose, she didn't panic and shut down. She didn't blame herself. She fought her case, she won, she was willing to accept it when she was wrong and lost. She didn't have to elaborate that the work she put in this relationship was well worth the effort. How she'd grown up accustomed to men viewing her with dollar signs in their eyes, while Jane made her feel priceless. How nothing snapped her out of a mood quicker than one of Jane's smiles, or embraces if a smile wasn't enough. How Jane was patient enough to explain the joke, to let Maura on it, to laugh when she took a shot at joking herself.
In the past it had been,
"So, my girl. How're things? You happy?"
It was always a distant reply. "You sure about that?" Again, half-joking.
She would sigh, find a way to be honest: "I'm happy enough."
Desmond had waited for the day when that qualifier would be gone, and now it finally was. Judging by Maura's tone of voice and the look on her face, it wouldn't ever come back to encroach upon her happiness.
He had never been particularly good at expression his emotions in front of his daughter. It led to a bit of an odd relationship between them: unlike Constance, he was pretty good at asking questions and keeping in touch, but he was lousy at going beneath the surface. Any implications that a dive was in order, and he would anxiously change the subject.
"This is a beautiful house, you know," he said. "I always thought so, when I saw the pictures. But it really seems like a home to me, now."
"That sentiment never made much sense to me before," Maura giggled. "But I get it now." Things just make more sense with Jane around.
"The Rizzoli's home is nice, too," Desmond said casually. "A tad… smaller than this one. I only say that because Jane mentioned that Christmas dinner will be held there, and she was rattling off the guest list to us, and…"
Maura nodded. "You think it would make more sense to have it here."
"Well, only because of all the room," he said uncomfortably.
She inhaled deeply and smiled, giving her father's knee a quick, reassuring pat. "Trust me, dad. There's no greater feeling than being stuffed into a small house with loads of people, kids running everywhere, and more junk food around than you know what to do with. It's the perfect cure."
"Cure for what?"
"For whatever ails you!"
"Well right now, sleep deprivation ails me," Desmond said, removing his glasses and setting them on the nightstand. "If it's all right, I think I'll lie down for a while."
"Certainly! Jane and I should be getting back to work soon, anyway. But we'll see you later?"
Desmond fell back onto the bed. "Of course."
He sat up a bit when he heard Maura say "dad" a bit shyly at the doorway. He raised his eyebrows, and she said, "I'm really glad you came along with mom."
He smiled. "Merry Christmas, Maura."
"Grandma got run over by a reindeer/walkin' home from our house, Christmas eve/ you can say there's no such thing as Santa /but as for me and Grandpa, we believe!"
As Jane and Constance belted out the final chorus, Maura could not stop laughing. "Mother! I can't believe you know the lyrics to that song!"
"Well you certainly shouldn't take it as any indication of my feelings towards a certain mother-in-law," Constance said.
"Hey!" Desmond cried.
"It's a joke, dear."
"No, it wasn't."
"You're right, it wasn't."
"Is anyone going to tell me where we're going?" Maura sighed.
They were piled into Maura's car, Jane driving as she followed the van that carried her parents, Frankie, and his girlfriend Riley. This was something Jane had been planning for a few weeks now, and had decided to leave it as a secret, because nothing was cuter than catching Maura Isles in delighted surprise. Snow covered the landscape, and as they were driving in a direction Maura had yet to explore, she really was at a loss for what they might be doing. She wasn't too bothered, though; it had been entertaining to hear Jane and Desmond sing along with the carols on the radio—Constance had rolled her eyes most of the time until the tried and true classic of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer came over the waves.
"Are we at least getting close?" Maura asked.
"Maybe," Jane said, nodding out the window on Maura's side.
A horse-drawn sleigh, complete with bells and a driver in period apparel, wasn't too far out of sight. There was a short pause, and something clicked. "Jane," Maura said slowly. "Are you taking me where I think you're taking me?"
"Um, what makes you think this is all about you?" Jane teased her. "I happen to have it on good authority that your dad has always loved ponies and wanted to ride in a horse-drawn sleigh."
Desmond sighed dramatically. "Is she always like this?" he asked Maura. "Cracking jokes at other people's expense?"
The question had been put forward in good spirits, making Maura comfortable enough to reply, "All the time."
Once they had arrived and everyone was congregated waiting for sleighs, Angela pulled Jane aside. "This site is gorgeous, Jane. Frankie was telling us on the drive up how much time you spent picking a good place."
"Yeah, it's nice, huh?" Jane said proudly. Star-shaped lights were hung from most of the trees on the path, adding even more of a cozy atmosphere to the snow.
"It's beautiful." She nudged Jane in the ribs. "It'd be a nice place to get down on one knee."
"And…. do my ventriloquist act?"
Angela slapped her shoulder, and Jane laughed. "I'm serious, Jane! Have you and Maura even discuss—"
"Hey look, here comes a sleigh!" Jane said loudly, grabbing everyone's attention. "It's two per carriage, who's up first?"
Frankie shoved Maura at Jane. "You two, I think!"
"All righty, then!" Jane laughed, jumping into the sleigh as soon as it pulled up. Maura eagerly stepped in after her, and they waved cheerfully to their family as they rode off.
They had dressed for the cold, particularly Maura, who (as always) was dressed to the nines. But all the coats and gloves and scarves in the world couldn't keep her from wanting to snuggle next to Jane under the enormous blanket that hung in front of them. Maura pulled it over them, tucking an arm around Jane. For a while, they were happy just to silently enjoy the ride together, the beauty of the landscape and just the beauty of the fact that Jane had thought to arrange this.
"I don't know about you," Jane said softly, "but when I was a kid, winter was my favorite season. I just have all these memories of me and Frankie and Tommy messing around in the snow—we'd build forts, and have snowball fights, make snow angels. Or snow demons, as Tommy thought it would be cooler to say. I mean as a kid, you don't have to worry about snow tires or digging your car free from the driveway. You don't think about black ice. You just think of it as… well, this," she said, gesturing to the snow-topped trees around them. "It's just this marshmallow blanket of fluff, and even though it's cold, it makes you feel warm somehow. Does that make sense?"
"Absolutely. I think it's sweet."
"Yeah," Jane said with a happy sigh.
Maura laughed to herself a moment later. "I never thought I'd have a Christmas like this, Jane."
"Like lots of things, I suppose. My family hasn't spent it together since my senior—no, junior year of high school, and that itself was a fluke. Usually I stayed abroad, because it felt simpler. And all I thought about were snow tires, and digging my car free from the driveway, and the black ice," she chuckled, and Jane smiled. Maura rested her head on Jane's shoulder. "But then last year you came to my house past midnight, and you shoveled my driveway."
"And you invited me in for some cocoa."
"And we fell asleep on the couch. And now snow looks more like a marshmallow blanket to me than it ever did when I was younger. Thank you."
"It's my pleasure, doc."
First ones gone, first ones back. Jane had figured they would just wait for everybody else to return (before going into a nearby establishment for wassail), but Maura had other plans. Appearing a little nervous, she took Jane by the hand and guided her over to a slightly more secluded area. Darkness had yet to fully set in, or maybe that was just because the nearby lights were so bright—still, Jane could see well enough to tell that Maura looked anxious.
"Honey, are you all right?" she asked.
"I'm fine, Jane. I'm better than I ever have been," she said, fidgeting slightly, hands shoved into her pockets. "I'm just…" She closed her eyes and turned her head away from Jane, trying to steady herself.
"Hold on, just give me a second," Maura breathed. She opened her eyes and cleared her throat. "Jane, I don't know if you understand, sometimes."
"I don't," Jane said, holding her hands up in admission of defeat. "I'm an idiot. That's why I need you to actually go back and translate about eighty percent of the things you say at work, so I can understand them."
"I'd say it's more akin to eighty-five percent, but I'm not talking about work," Maura said. "Sometimes I'm not sure if you fully comprehend …how much you've changed my life. Y-you just make me so happy, happier than I ever thought I could be. I remember when I first met you, I envied you for how easily you seemed to get along with people and I was envious of everyone at BPD who was comfortable being with you, laughing at your jokes with you. I was in awe of you, but you made me nervous. Not—because I was intimidated by you," she said quickly, as Jane's expression had turned a little guilty. "In that… sort of… seventh-grade-girl crush kind of way."
"You had a crush on me from the start," Jane clarified.
"Yes, but it got easier to deal with in time. I just had no idea. When we became friends, I had no idea…"
"That we would reach this stage? Trust me, honey, I didn't either."
Maura was on the verge of tears, holding one gloved hand to her mouth and using the other to wave away Jane's invitation for an embrace. "No, I mean—I had no idea how much you were going to enrich my life, Jane. Every aspect of it. You make me want to be stronger, and your family has been so open and inviting, and I love that you make me laugh and you put up with my—'put up' isn't even really right, because I know you appreciate all of my… weird quirks."
"I love them," Jane assured her quietly, pulling her in for a soft kiss. They pulled apart, and Jane was beaming, no longer shy about being entirely open with her emotions. "Getting to spend every day with you makes me feel ridiculously lucky, Maura. I love getting to be that person for you, and I love having you be that person for me."
"Wait," Maura said a little breathlessly. "Wait, there was more…" She looked a little pained.
"Yes, I—I never was sure before," she said, her voice wavering. "I mean it was always hard for me to know, in relationships, when I'd …if I'd…" She met Jane's bright, patient, slightly-confused eyes one more time.
Then she fumbled in her coat pocket for something and dropped to one knee, holding a small velvet box open for Jane. The snow instantly clung to and soaked her denim pant leg, numbing it almost immediately, but Maura was focused on nothing but the look of shock on Jane's face. The word "marriage" had been casually tossed about a couple of months previously, when a rather grisly case had gotten them on the topic of childhood wedding fantasies. It was hard not to feel like the conversation was direct as Jane guided it, and though they'd both felt comfortable talking about it, there had been an assumption that it was still a ways down the pike.
"Jane, I don't see the point in waiting anymore," Maura said, trembling with nerves. "I'm so in love with you, and I just want—I want to have in my life for the rest of my life, and I want so badly to be a part of yours." Her nerves dissipated when Jane finally smiled, then laughed, clearly brushing away tears. "I would be so …I would be so…" Oh, every word she had planned just melted away when Jane was looking at her like this. "S-so honored and grateful and excited if you would please marry me."
Jane sank to her knees and pulled Maura into a searing kiss. Maura nearly dropped the box before quickly kissing Jane back, pushing forward. Jane broke it off quickly afterwards, and Maura looked down between them to realize Jane was holding a small, velvet box as well.
"Always two steps ahead of me, aren't you, Dr. Smartypants?" Jane laughed, sniffing and wiping at her eyes.
"So that's a yes?" Maura asked.
Jane laughed incredulously. "That's a choir of heavenly angels assorting themselves with banners and vuvuzelas, yelling 'yes' in every language known to man!"
"Actually, I think that's our families," Maura said, looking to their left.
Frank, Angela, Constance, and Desmond were all clustered several yards away, looking on happily. The flash of Angela's camera didn't even bother Jane as she took Maura by the hand, bringing her back to her feet.
"She said yes!" they both yelled to their respective parents.
The End :)