On Christmas Eve, there is no aisle nor pews, nor extended family. There is Angela and Constance, Korsak and Frost, Frankie, Julia, Tommy, Lydia, and the celebrant. And at the centre of the rotunda, with its crackling fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows are Jane and Maura, speaking their vows.
And their vows are simple. Traditional.
Jane, I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife. I vow to love you and care for you as long as we both shall live. I take you with all your faults and your strengths as I offer myself to you with my faults and strengths. I will help you when you need help, and I will turn to you when I need help. I choose you as the person with whom I will spend my life.
Maura, I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife. I vow to love you and care for you as long as we both shall live. I take you with all your faults and your strengths as I offer myself to you with my faults and strengths. I will help you when you need help, and I will turn to you when I need help. I choose you as the person with whom I will spend my life.
The vows are not solely their own. This is not the first time that such vows have been spoken. But they are without subtext and secrets, layers and lies.
They are true. And that is real and theirs.
"This looks lovelier than a Red Sox Jersey," Maura whispers as they sit down to eat in the dining room. She runs a fingernail over the chiffon of Jane's low V-neck dress and smiles coyly. "Cream looks lovely on you."
At Maura's touch, Jane feels a heat burning across the exposed skin of her chest. She looks up, away from Maura's intense gaze. Everybody is engrossed in conversation. Their family.
"Are you cold?" Maura asks, concerned. "You have goosebumps."
"Not cold. Just happy."
Maura smiles so widely that Jane feels the corners of her own mouth upturning. Maura leans forward to whisper something in Jane's ear, and Jane follows. But as they shift, Maura's expression creases with concern.
"What's wrong?" Jane whispers, her heart skipping a beat.
"You're sitting on my wedding dress, Jane," Maura whines.
"Oh, for Christ's sake," Jane breathes as she moves off of the two layers of pure white silk charmeuse that she'll remove later.
Smoothing the dress closer to Maura, Jane's gaze falls to Maura's freckled neck, the pearl necklace that dresses her sternum. Jane runs a hand over the shawl across Maura's shoulders.
"Hey," she husks.
Maura looks up, happy hazel shining brightly.
"You're beautiful, Maura."
Maura watches Frankie all afternoon. He distracts her with pursed lips and a smile that doesn't reach his eyes. Judging. Knowing. And although Jane hasn't told her, Maura is more than aware. Jane told him. Somewhere along the line, Jane gave up on secrets and burden and guilt and he knows.
The blonde finds her brother-in-law by a window in the hallway, looking out at the snow-covered grounds.
"I'm waiting for Julia. She's fixin' her make-up," he says awkwardly.
Maura tightens her hold on the stem of her champagne glass. "Frankie…"
"I love your sister with…my entire being."
His gaze narrows, and confusion paints his expression. The way his lips twist, Maura knows he can taste the same bitter sweetness that she used to be both burdened and blessed with on a daily basis. Now, that feels like years ago.
"Jane told you."
"Yeah." He scratches at the back of his neck. "She did."
"I don't think you know."
"No, she told me everything," he affirms. "And you shouldn't have asked her to marry you. She's so transparent when it comes to stuff like this. You must have known how she felt. You have to know, Maura."
"I do." Maura stands a little bit taller. "Jane and I have discussed things. We are no longer going into this blindly, Frankie. I love her, and I know her."
Like a schoolboy, Frankie squirms nervously on the spot. "What does that mean exactly?"
"What it was is over. I'm in love with her, and she's in love with me. Truly. You don't have to worry about Jane. Not when it comes to me."
Those are the magic words. He leans forward and wraps his arms around his sister's wife.
His voice is husky, hot like his sister's when she is carrying a weight that doesn't belong to her, when he breathes, "I'm sorry if Janie hurt you."
"No," Maura whispers, allowing a tear to slip over a flushed cheek. "She loved me."
They say goodbye to their family at the house, but it is Constance who lingers, bringing the last of the gifts into the guest house where Jane and Maura will spend their first night as wives.
Maura never thought that something as traditional and conventional as getting married would make her so proud and earn her such a sense of approval from her mother. But as Constance unclips the thin veil from Maura's bun and smooths the material over the back of the love seat like it's the most precious cloth she's ever touched, Maura realises that it marriage has given her a new identity, a new purpose. As an independent woman, Maura is torn; she despises that belonging to someone else could give her such a strong sense of worth, but at the same time, she loves it.
"I'll leave you to be," Constance grins coyly. "Jane will be here soon."
"Angela was just getting a coat for Jane from the car. She couldn't walk all the way to the guest house in simply her wedding dress."
"She may be…brash," Constance falters, "but Jane makes a stunning bride."
The knock on the door is soft, and when Constance opens it, Jane is wrapped in an oversized coat, wearing a surprised expression.
The older woman leans forward and presses her lips to Jane's cheek. "Congratulations, Jane." She stands back to look at Maura. "I'll be going now. Merry Christmas."
And with that, she is gone, the door to the guest house locked behind her.
Jane looks sheepishly to her wife. Maura smiles softly, and rubs at her bare arms.
"Are you cold?" Jane nods at Maura's hand that is trying to erase goosebumps. "Your dress is so…I mean, it doesn't have a top like mine. No. I mean, it has a top, obviously, just…lower."
Jane shakes her head and closes her mouth.
"Strapless," Maura offers, and then catches her bottom lip between her teeth, which captivates Jane's attention immediately.
"Empire waist," Jane murmurs.
Maura raises an eyebrow in silent appraisal.
"I googled beforehand," Jane whispers.
"I've thought about this a lot."
"Never mind." Jane swallows over the lump in her throat as she discards the coat on the opposite end of the love seat. "Would you like to sit down—
"No," Maura interrupts, her voice raised just slightly enough to make Jane look up at her. "No, I don't want to sit down."
"I want to undress you first."
"Okay," Jane breathes, and feels her mouth go dry with her last breath. Her heart feels heavy in the most delightful way she's ever known. It pounds, dragging out each beat as though the next may actually kill her with kindness.
Maura moves closer to stand before Jane. She wraps her arms around the detective's neck and unclips the halter neck. The two halves of Jane's top come apart in Maura's hands. Jane's hands shoot up immediately, pressing the material to her chest.
"Would you like me to turn out the light?" Maura wonders.
Maura's eyes light up with playful seduction. "Then don't touch."
Jane's hands fall away and so does the material.
The tall dark detective is standing before her wife in a floor length skirt, completely bare from the waist up.
Maura can't draw her gaze away.
"Your breasts are larger than I recalled," she murmurs.
"Gee, thanks," Jane grunts.
Maura reaches forward and cups them in her warm palms. Jane exhales deeply.
Jane feels heat between her legs and fire on her cheeks. "Thank you," she whispers, and looks up to the ceiling.
But not for long.
Maura leans forward and presses a single kiss to the top of a breast before one of Jane's nipples are between Maura's lips and her tongue is circling and oh god. Jane tangles her fingers in blonde hair, and gently pulls Maura back.
Maura's lips are shining, parted, when she looks at Jane in confusion.
"Just kiss me."
Their kiss is long, deep and drawn out. Maura hums in Jane's mouth as their tongues circle and dominate, their lips sliding. Maura tastes so fucking good and feels so fucking soft, and Jane just needs to get out of these heels, out of this dress so that she can move and do more.
The heels are discarded and the dress is unzipped. Jane rests her hands on Maura's waist as she steps out of the dress, draping it carelessly over the coat.
"Jane," Maura admonishes. But, as always, the detective is too determined to care. Her hands are on the zipper of Maura's wedding dress.
"Hey, slow down, slow down," Maura giggles, and stills Jane's hands at the back of her dress. "Kiss me again."
Maura tilts her head up to Jane's kiss, and closes her eyes, waiting.
Jane leans down and presses a simple kiss to Maura's lips.
Maura opens her eyes, searching for more.
Jane's lips are on her chin.
On her throat.
In winter, in just a pair of white panties, Jane has kneeled before her wife, her forehead resting against Maura's stomach.
Maura places a hand at the back of Jane's neck, bare where her curls are pinned high. She can feel, in her palm, Jane's strength. On her belly, even through her wedding dress, she can feel Jane's hot breath, trying to regulate itself. Maura doesn't hesitate to take the opportunity to remove the pins from Jane's hair to comb her fingers through raven curls.
At the mention of her name, it is as though Jane returns to the world of the living. She looks up at Maura, and their eyes meet.
Denial. It's not just a river in Egypt. It's the longest.
Jane lowers her gaze, slides her hands up to Maura's waist to steady herself. Presses her face against Maura's abdomen, and draws lower, lower, until her nose is pressed directly between the apex of Maura's thighs and the blonde whimpers softly.
Maura can't help it. She parts her legs, just slightly. Through her wedding dress, Jane kisses her where heat burns and love swells. Maura blushes deeply.
Jane wants to be between Maura's legs so desperately that it almost embarrasses her.
She stands, and undresses her wife. Completely.
Underneath the covers, they slow down. Their legs part for each other, and they move, gently, but never wildly enough to bring the utmost pleasure of release. Enough to press heat and swollen flesh against each other. But nothing more. Yet.
It is Maura who first touches Jane between her legs as the brunette sucks Maura's nipple and areola into her mouth with pained enthusiasm. But Jane pushes away the touch, slides lower, pressing kisses along Maura's abdomen, and touches her lips to wet, engorged flesh.
Jane kisses and licks and sucks Maura between her legs with a kind of want she's never experienced in her 36 years of being a woman. Maura rises and falls, whispering Jane Jane Jane, and Jane watches with hooded eyes as Maura wraps her delicate fingers around the lip of a pillow and comes with untamed abandon.
There is nothing like this, Jane thinks. Not a single thing.
Maura comes three times before Jane even has a chance to press a finger into her and make love to her the way they first did on their couch in Beacon Hill when life was tepid and masked. Jane shifts up the bed to touch Maura and lie beside her. Her wedding ring presses against Maura as her hand shifts between Maura's legs to add another finger. Their gazes hold as Maura comes, this time a little softer, a gentle quiver shaking her to release.
They are still.
Maura's naked chest heaves, and Jane admires Maura's breasts without sheepishness.
Maura sighs and runs a hand over Jane's ribs. "You're so warm, and you love me."
Jane smirks. "I can't believe I just went down on you."
Maura bites her lip to censor a proud smile. "Did you enjoy it?"
Jane swallows and stares into hazel. "Yeah. I really enjoyed it." "I've been thinking about…that…for a while."
"Mmm." Maura sits up on an elbow. "How do you want me to touch you?"
Jane licks her lips.
"Would you like me to use my mouth?" Maura breathes, her eyes darkening. Jane presses her legs together in anticipation.
Jane thinks she sounds silly. But she can't bring herself to care. Not when Maura is moving between her legs and pressing her knees apart.
Maura pauses, hesitant.
"I've never done this before."
She rests a hand on Jane's knee. Jane covers it with her own, a thumb rubbing over the back of Maura's hand.
Maura licks her lips, and the fullness of them remind Jane of the coiling feeling in her abdomen. She needs to come. But more than that, she needs to let go.
Jane rests back against the pillow and closes her eyes. She releases a deep breath.
"I love you," Jane chokes. There's a tear running over her temple and into her hairline.
Maura bends, and kisses Jane where she is hot and wet and wanting.
And Jane's world goes white.
When Jane wakes to snow falling on Christmas morning, her eyes first open to see their wedding dresses draped over the edge of the love seat, one on top of the other. Then, she sees the snow, a gloomy morning. Then, she feels Maura shift in her arms. In Jane's oversized lumber jacket. Jane grins as Maura's naked leg slips between hers, and blonde hair comes to rest beneath her chin.
Maura's lips press against Jane's naked chest.
Like a reflex.
Like a commitment.
Like the best truth Jane has ever known.