Today is big. It's different. It's the middle of what's becoming a very long week, full of tough cases and a close call on Monday that even rattled me more than usual.
Ever since Maura and I have officially gotten together and I've been back on full duty at work, I am much more mindful of who I have waiting for me at home. I'm still a badass detective, but I'm a lot less reckless when it comes to my job. Monday was a bad day, physically and emotionally. I'm thankful Maura has already put it behind her, even if it remains at the forefront of my mind as I leave work a bit earlier than usual.
Today may be big, and it may be different, and it may be in the middle of a very long week, but today is definitely a good day. A very good day.
I thought it would change me, becoming a millionaire, but in the three hours or so that the settlement check from Amtrak, and all of the other parties to my injury lawsuit, has been sitting with my financial advisors, I don't really feel all that different. I turned the check over to Maura's financial advisors immediately, afraid I'd lose it, or somehow void it. They are already working on investments for it, placing some of it into liquid accounts that I could access whenever I needed, and in other forms of investment that are more long term in nature, and designed to give my family and me a very bright, very comfortable future.
One thing is for certain: even if Maura didn't already have her own fortune, from today, we'd never have to worry about money again. It's a calming, reassuring feeling. I have no plans to quit my job though. I've fought too hard in the two years since my accident to come back, and I love every minute I'm on the job, even when I have days like Monday.
I spoke to the advisors about my needs and wants, concerning those settlements. Walter Laffler had been back and forth to settlement conferences over the past several weeks, trying to settle my lawsuits before trial, at my request. Walter had indicated we'd probably get better results if the case went to a jury, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to relive my injuries in front of a panel of twelve strangers while defense attorneys grilled me. It's bad enough that I have to go testify in criminal court for work. I don't need to sit around in civil court all day. Walter came through though, and last week I signed the settlement documents. He called me earlier today to tell me the check was in. Even after his cut, the settlement was far more than I ever imagined it would be. I never imagined it would be a million dollars, let alone a three million dollar combined settlement.
My first plan is to set aside enough money to give to my mother and brothers, to make sure they're taken care of. Nothing too big, since I'm a millionaire and not a billionaire, but let's just say that Ma can pay off the loan for the cafe and buy a house, and Frankie and Tommy are both set as well.
I told the financial advisors I need a small portion of it right away, and they were more than happy to front a deposit to my checking account this afternoon, which is what I'm shopping with right now.
I didn't tell Maura the check came in. I didn't even tell her the amount of the settlement. I'm not trying to keep it a secret from her, but I have a plan, and keeping her in the dark for a few hours is a necessary evil. I'm sure she'll understand once everything is ready later tonight. The events on Monday combined with the fortune I just received meant that I could now make the things I'd been dreaming about doing a reality. I figured the sooner, the better, so that's why I'm sneaking out of work early and putting my ideas into motion.
I asked Frost and Korsak to cover for me as I left the precinct to pick up the check and run my errands. Maura will undoubtedly come up to the bullpen to see me at some point during the afternoon. She does that every afternoon, and it's the highlight of my day. I'll miss seeing her today, but like I said, it'll be worth it when I'm done.
I walk into the jewelry store on Newbury Street and find the saleswoman I dealt with a few weeks earlier. She remembers me, which is good. I'm glad she'll get the commission on the ring I'm about to pick up. She had the patience of a saint as I tried to design the perfect ring for Maura. I'm so excited that it's finally ready for pickup.
Even without knowing the settlement was on its way, I had picked out a ring for Maura a few weeks ago, and had it customized. I'd shown the saleswoman a photo of the blue sapphire heart ring I'd gotten for Maura over a year ago and she helped me to design an engagement ring that was similar in style, but much more sophisticated and much more engagement-like. As I open up the ring box to look over the ring once more before paying for it, I start to get a little overcome with emotion. The diamonds and sapphires are set in platinum, and the engraving on the inside of the ring is perfect, even if Maura will have to use her microscope to read it. I think that will be part of the magic for her, and will make the ring all the more endearing to her. At least, I hope so.
"You are my everything."
Package and receipt in hand, I now need to get over to the hair salon and the Armani boutique a little further up the street. My custom suit should be waiting for me after I get my hair done. I've never been one for big names or fancy labels, but proposing to Maura Isles means pulling out all the stops. I know she'll recognize the quality, and hopefully she'll appreciate it. I snicker and think that the fact that I'm getting my hair cut and styled before I do this will also show Maura the lengths I'm willing to go for her in life. My hair has grown quite a bit in the two years since I was injured. It now sits on my shoulders, wild and curly as ever. I can put it up in a ponytail again, something I missed terribly.
I've honestly never felt better, physically or emotionally. It's not just that I've overcome my injuries and life has gone back to normal. Life has gone beyond the normal. Maura has given me so much, and every minute with her is like a minute in heaven. All the hurt and all the pain of losing Maura to William seems like a lifetime ago. Neither of us thinks of it often, and if we do, it's usually to remark about how far we've come, how happy we are, or how grateful we are that things turned out the way they did.
And William? Well, he's sitting in an uncomfortably small cell up in Walpole. At first he tried to go the insanity route, but after a few hearings, the judge denied his request to plead guilty by reason of insanity. Once that happened, he saved me the trouble of having to testify at trial by simply pleading guilty, and I took a modicum of satisfaction in knowing that the judge denied his insanity plea, putting him in prison instead of a mental hospital. Although he didn't receive a life sentence, unless he lives to be one hundred and twelve, he's never going to be a problem for Maura or me ever again.
I smile as I leave the salon and head to the Armani boutique, my mind on the rest of my errands. I've got some time, and I'm not hurrying because I want everything to go according to plan, but I'm also eager to get back to the precinct.
Also on my list is a bouquet of flowers. Ma's already got several bottles of expensive champagne chilling in the cafe. It's a miracle in and of itself that Ma hasn't spilled the beans yet today, considering how excited she is. Frost and Korsak have kept Maura away from the cafe as much as possible though, just in case. It dawns on me that there was a time when Ma may not have been so excited about this turn of events. I'm so thankful she not only came around, but has remained the helicopter mother she's always been, and has been publicly calling Maura her daughter for quite some time now.
At the Armani boutique I try on the custom tailored suit I ordered on the same night I designed Maura's engagement ring, and grin at my reflection. It fits me beautifully, hugging me in all the right places and showing off the body that took me a long time to reclaim as my own. My olive skin is tanned once again, and I haven't looked like the pale sack of skin and bones that I was during my recovery in a long, long time. As egotistical as it sounds, I look as good as I feel, and I feel really good.
I decide to wear the suit out of the store, and the clerk is only too happy to wrap my cheap clothes in a bag, hidden away from the other customers' eyes. I can't help but laugh to myself at the clerk's obvious discomfort in handling them. I may be a millionaire now, but I'll never be too good to shop in a department store.
On a whim, I stop at a travel agency located next to the florist, and book Maura and I a long weekend in Aruba for the coming weekend. It's a huge splurge, something I hadn't even anticipated doing, but I think we're going to need a weekend away to celebrate our engagement and now I've got the means to do things like this every now and then. Getting out of the cold Boston weather will be good for all both of us, even if it is just for a long weekend. I have the travel agent book us on a private jet, in a private beach house in Aruba, and even set up a limo to take us to and from the airport. The travel agent gives me a bunch of brochures to show Maura when I surprise her with the trip. I've never flown on a private jet before, though Maura has one at her disposal from the Isles Foundation. She often talks about us using it to fly somewhere for our honeymoon.
Once I've got the bouquet I call Ma and tell her I'm on my way. That's her cue to text Frost and Korsak. They'll call Maura up to the bullpen with some excuse, and Ma will bring the champagne down to Maura's office in the morgue. Cavanaugh and Susie Chang will help get things set up down there while Maura's away. I also text Frankie and Tommy to make sure they're on their way, and both respond that they're in the precinct but out of sight. They'll head down to the morgue when Ma gives them the all clear. By the time I get back to the precinct, most of the detectives and lab staff will have cleared out for the day. That's good, because it will give me the chance to do this with just the audience I want: the people that mean the most to Maura and I.
Maura and I have spoken about getting married for ages, making tentative plans and a long list of dream destinations for our venue and our honeymoon. Ma's been pushing us both to set a date, which was my clue to actually get engaged. There's no doubt in my mind that Maura will say yes, but I've got to admit I'm still a bit nervous. I'm not nervous about marrying Maura. I'm already as committed to her as I possibly could be, and making it official doesn't scare me in the least. I'm the happiest I've ever been, thanks to her.
No, the only thing making me nervous about all of this is that I want to get it just right. I want this proposal to be as perfect as Maura is. She deserves nothing but the best, and that's what I want to give her.
I park in the precinct garage and use the garage elevator to take me down to the morgue, hoping no one will spot me along the way. My newly-styled hair and expensive suit will definitely make people ask questions, and I don't want to ruin Maura's surprise.
"Do you have it?" Ma asks as I walk into Maura's office. Cavanaugh stops spreading around the flower petals on Maura's desk long enough to look up at me and grin.
"Yeah," I say, pulling the ring out of my pocket with a grin. "I think it's perfect for her."
Ma runs over to take a look at it, and Cavanaugh and Susie are not far behind her. Everyone agrees the ring is perfect. It's Maura's style and elegance, and the dark blue stones and white diamonds will complement her looks well.
I put the giant bouquet of flowers on Maura's desk and help spread a few of the petals I'd sent into work with Ma earlier in the day along the floor and the coffee table in front of the couch. Slowly they've transformed Maura's comfortable but professional office into someplace romantic. It took me awhile to figure out how I wanted to propose, and where, but in the end the only place I could think of was Maura's office. So much of our lives were spent there, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. It only made sense to propose there. I knew that Maura would agree.
Even though it's against fire regulations, we light a few candles too. Ma makes sure the bottles of champagne are sitting on ice, and then she, Cavanaugh and Suzie hustle back to the lab, where I've made sure the window shade is open so they can see in. Tommy and Frankie are already in there, and they give me an excited thumbs up sign as I flick off the lights in Maura's office and settle on the couch to wait.
Everything is ready to go, I text to Frost.
10-4. We are en route, Frost texts back.
Minutes that feel more like hours later I hear the elevator doors open and Maura speaking.
"I'm not really sure what else there is to see on the body, Detective," Maura says cautiously.
"Oh, well, I just figured we could give the body one more good looking over before we release it. Just call it a gut feeling," Korsak says.
"Of course," Maura replies, dubious. These detectives have never asked to give a body ready for release another once over, and I can tell that it irritates her a little bit that they could possibly be second guessing her, even if she is too polite to let them see it. I can hear it though, and I guess that's just another part of the long list of things that make Maura and I perfect for each other.
"Hey Doc, why is the light to your office off?" Frost asks innocently.
"That's odd, I didn't turn it off. Is that… flickering? Is something on fire?" Maura asks, her heels clacking loudly against the morgue floor as she rushes over to investigate, oblivious to the fact that Frost and Korsak are right behind her grinning excitedly.
I smile up at Maura from the couch when she arrives, tossing on the lights to see where the source of the firelight she'd seen could be coming from.
"Oh, Jane, it's you," Maura says, cheerfully surprised. Her eyes open wide as she takes in her office, and I know she's about to say something about candles being against the fire code until she realizes what's going on.
"What's this?" she asks me, grinning in anticipation of what she thinks is about to happen.
I stand up and walk over to her, first planting a kiss on her cheek, and then kneeling down on one knee in front of her. Ma, my brothers, Cavanaugh and Susie are all watching from the window to the lab, and Frost and Korsak are gathered in the doorway, grinning like fools.
"Maura," I say, surprised at how steady my voice is, because I suddenly don't feel very steady. I'm afraid I'm going to forget the words I've been practicing in my head for weeks now. I take her hand in mine and look up at her. She's already crying, because she knows what's coming. I've never seen her look more beautiful.
I take a deep breath and start over again. "Maura, I tried to think of the best, most romantic way to do this, and nothing I could think of seemed perfect enough for you. Instead, I thought that the best way to do this would be in front of the people we love the most."
I look back over my shoulder and then over at the doorway. Maura catches everyone's eyes and beams at them.
"You are my world, Maura. Without you, I wouldn't even be here. I owe you my life, but all I can give you is my heart. I've loved you since the day I met you, and with each passing day, my love for you only gets stronger."
I stop and take a steadying breath.
"You've given me so much, Maura. Life. A home. A turtle."
She giggles and squeezes my hand before mumbling "tortoise". I smile back up at her.
"Maura, you are my everything. I love you, and I would be honored if you'd spend the rest of your life with me, as my wife."
I take the ring out of my pocket and hold it out to her. She cups her hands over her mouth in happy surprise, before she wipes a tear from her cheek and then holds her hand out for me, so I can slide the ring on.
"Will you marry me?"
"Yes," she cries, pulling me up to her.
We kiss, and it's just like every one of our kisses: completely different from every kiss before. I can't wait to spend a lifetime discovering each new day with her and each new kiss that it would bring.
Behind us, a champagne bottle gets uncorked, and there are cheers from everyone. I hug Maura to me, and we look around at our family.
It's good to be alive, I think, as I pull Maura to me once more and kiss her.
A/N: So what do I say when the last words to the last chapter of what is probably going to be my most successful story ever get posted?
How do I express the emotions involved? There's so many of them. There's jubilation at the success that came with this story. There's relief that the story is up in its entirety, posted almost completely on time on what became a rather strenuous posting schedule. There's sadness that the journey is over. There's wonder at the thought that the one little idea I had about breaking Jane down to her saddest point could have spun into a story this epic. There's gratitude to the people who have been reading not just this story, but all of my stories. There's amazement that Charlie didn't fly all the way to New York to bop me over the head over some of the edits. Seriously, that woman as the editing patience of a saint, and the fact that she stuck around for all of this story, and a handful of one shots in between chapters is a testament to how awesome she is. CharlietheCAG, I am forever grateful to you for the work you did on this and the friend that you became. Thank you for your (sometimes snarky, always laugh inducing, always appreciated) reviews on my old stories from what feels like ages ago. Without them, we would have never connected.
Thank you. Thank you to all of you who have read to this point. Thank you to those of you who voted for this story, and for me, in the 2013 Rizzles Fan Awards. Thank you to those of you who have followed me here on FanFiction, Twitter, and Tumblr. I've encountered some really wonderful people along the way, and I'm thankful to each of you. I've developed friendships I otherwise never would have had because of this story. This is more than just a story to me. It turned out to be a way to come together with other people like me, who encouraged me and made me feel like a part of a group instead of the outsider looking in for one of the first times in my life. And for a while now, I've felt a lot less like SociallyAwkwardPenguin and a lot more like, well just me. :)
Several of you have asked for a sequel. Others just want to know what I plan to come up with next. For now, I'm taking a break. And before the collective groan gets too loud, I don't plan on it being too long of a break. But I need some time to rest and recharge my batteries. The sheer amount of work that went into this story was something I never anticipated. It was a lot more than just typing up some words and posting them. Each of the 58 chapters in this story went through several drafts, and then several edits. Several plot lines changed at the last minute and Charlie and I had to work through them until we both felt they were just perfect. And we did all of that while still posting the chapters of a novel-length story twice a week and while both of us worked full time jobs.
And while I enjoyed it, at times the process and production of this story felt overwhelming. Sometimes it was overwhelmingly good, and other times it was, well, just overwhelming. So for the next couple of weeks I plan to sit back, read some other fics written by some wonderfully talented authors, and toss some ideas around in my head. I won't be far, as you'll still see me on Twitter and Tumblr, and I encourage you to follow me there if you're so inclined. The links to my Twitter and Tumblr can be found in my profile here on FanFiction. I also encourage you to follow me here on FanFiction too, so you'll know the next time I post a story if you're interested in reading it.
After my break, I hope to come up with some new stories for you all to enjoy. I don't know if any of them will live up to Among the Dead, but I promise you I will try my hardest to make them the best they can be.
Lastly, to each of you that took the time to follow, favorite or review this story, I thank you whole heartedly. Your feedback has always been something I took great pride in, even if it was negative feedback. If it was constructive, I was humbled by it and learned from it. If it was positive, I let it buoy me and inflate my ego for a little while. And if it was a nasty flame... well, I took great pride in deleting it and growing a thicker skin in the process. ;) (Thankfully there weren't many of those!)
The honor of one final review, favorite or follow would be greatly appreciated. And please let me thank you one last time. Thank you for making this story the success it is. Without all of you, this would just be a story. With all of you here, it's a community within the fandom, full of great people that made this story into the success it is. I want to say "thank you from the bottom of my heart", but for each of you, my heart has no bottom. I am infinitely grateful.
With grateful appreciation, and heartfelt joy,