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The Proposal

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It's been three days since 'the proposal'. She hadn't even said yes yet but already everything seemed to have changed – and not for the better. She knew for sure when, for the second day in a row, Susie came up to the bullpen with lab results for the latest case.

A frustrated sigh escaped her lips at the latest reasoning for Maura's absence. Though, ‘excuse’, was a more appropriate word for it in her eyes. With a tired look on her face she thanked Susie for the file and tossed it on to her desk before making her way to the elevator and punching the down button.

The heavy doors slid open onto the basement level and she could already feel the chill creeping into her bones. She was unsure if it was from the morgue or the feeling of apprehension that was setting in. Taking a slow, bracing breath, Jane stepped out into the corridor, fingers reflexively kneading her scarred palms.

Her footsteps faltered when she heard the raised and exasperated voice of the Medical Examiner in the distance.

'Mitchell, why is the bone saw not in the assigned drawer?'

A quiet voice attempted to respond but was quickly interrupted.

'No, no. It's not good enough.'

Jane stepped around the corner of the hallway and carefully peered through the edge of a windowed wall of the autopsy room. She watched on as her friend marched to and fro around the room and replaced various ominous-looking implements, growing increasingly flustered as she went.

'All equipment and instruments are where they are for a reason. I have spent considerable time and effort configuring the most efficient layout for everything you see in this room. If things are not kept precisely where I have instructed, then precious time is wasted, focus is lost and professionalism is compromised; potentially opening the door to error and that I will not tolerate, Mitchell. Do you understand?'

Jane noticed that the Doctor had not looked at her nodding assistant once throughout her tirade, and though her words held the usual air of authority, the tone was ever so slightly off as emotion started to trickle in, adding a sliver of vulnerability to her voice, which she had been trying to keep hidden.

She backed further out of sight when she realised Maura had dismissed the assistant and was making her way out of the morgue.

As the sound of Maura's designer 'Zamboni' heels faded into the distance, Jane slumped against the wall, the coolness of the brick seeping through her shirt and inching up her spine. She didn't want Maura to know that she had witnessed her friend's outburst so she let her thoughts return to the ME, allowing a couple of minutes to pass.

She'd not seen Maura get like this before. Correction. She'd not seen Maura get like this at work before. She was always adamant that 'one should remain professional at all times,' and so to see her like this triggered alarm bells left, right and centre for the detective. When Jane reached the entrance to Maura's office, her hand reached up to give the door a light tap, but at the sight of her friend, she stopped in her tracks.

Maura was sat at her desk cradling her head in her hands; white-knuckled fingers buried deep within her golden locks, shoulders shaking as silent sobs wracked her body. A pained look befell Jane's face as she looked on, her hand clamping over her mouth. Quietly she stepped into the room and tentatively shut the door behind her. The click of the door made Maura's heart leap into her mouth. Glancing up she instantly became flustered at the unexpected presence of the detective. She hurriedly wiped away stray tears as she felt Jane walking closer. Unable to make eye contact, the form of her friend eased into her peripheral vision. Her eyes gravitated towards Jane's boots, focusing on a particularly scuffed edge, no doubt acquired from one of many skirmishes with a suspect.

'Maura?' The ME's eyes closed tightly at the trepidation in Jane's voice.

Fear was truly starting to take hold of the detective now when her friend still wouldn't make eye contact.

A gentle touch on her thigh jolted the Doctor into opening her eyes, immediately locking on to the soulful pair belonging to her best friend which were now level with her own as Jane knelt beside her.

'C'mon, Maura. Talk to me,' her voice cracking with the heart felt request. 'You've been avoiding me for three days now. Please?' Her hand squeezed the Doctor's thigh, emphasising her plea.

Maura worked hard to level out her breathing in order to compose herself, and Jane was far too close.

'Jane, I've not,' she shook her head as she tried to form an adequate response that wouldn't result in the tell-tale hives. 'I have had a lot to attend to in the lab, what with the Andrews' case and the…'

'Really? Maura?' Jane interrupted vehemently, but in what was little more than a fierce whisper. 'That has nothing to do with why you were in bits, just now.'

Maura opened and closed her mouth once, then a second time when again words seemed to fail her.

'I…'

There was a brisk knock at the door before Senior Criminalist Chang stepped in.

'Doctor Isles? I have the…' Susie's voice trailed off as she looked from her immediate superior to the increasingly irate looking detective, now rising to her full and currently rather imposing height.

'Susie, are those the toxicology reports from the Andrews' case?' Maura asked, unable to mask the relief as she eased back into ‘Doctor Isles’ mode. A point not missed by Jane, much to her annoyance.

Quickly passing Maura the file, Susie hastily exited the office before any of the daggers Jane was sure to be shooting from her eyes, found purchase.

The ME flicked purposefully through the paperwork, a furrowed brow now set in place.

'Maura..'

'Jane,' the ME cut in as her eyes scoured the data before her, 'these results are disappointingly inconclusive. I will have to get back and run another panel. Time is very much of the essence on this.' She looked up at the exasperated face of her friend, guilt hitting her before having to tear her eyes away again. Jane barely heard the hushed apology as Maura brushed past her and out of the office.

That was the last Jane saw of Maura for the rest of the day. They had caught a break, and with the aid of some crucial CCTV and Frost's magic fingers, they unearthed a name which led to them finally apprehending the suspect after a long and gruelling week; not just from the case but emotionally. Jane had gone through the wringer having not gotten a proper chance to talk to Maura, to get to the bottom of what was wrong.

 

–––––

 

Eyes drifted back to the swinging door as another person, who wasn't Maura, entered the Dirty Robber. With a heavy sigh, Jane knocked back the rest of her beer and placed it back on the table with a thump.

'That's me done, guys. I'm callin' it a night,' she said, weariness lacing her already gravelly voice.

Korsak and Frost shared a cautious look as they took in the demeanour of their colleague. It was still early yet, by their standards, especially with it being a Friday and having successfully wrapped up another case. But something obviously wasn't right with the woman sitting across from them and that something involved Doctor Isles, who they had also noticed, had been keeping her distance over the past few days for some reason they could not fathom.

When Jane had shot Maura's father, things had been difficult, then awkward, and then after a while, rather amusing if they were entirely truthful. Back then, everything was all fire and ice between the Doctor and the Detective as they butted heads before they eventually came to their senses and sorted out their differences. But this was something else entirely. There was none of the usual playful sarcasm with the trademark Rizzoli smirk. She kept everything strictly to the business at hand at all times, with not so much of a hint of a smile cracking her face.

They didn't want to admit it, but it was reminding them of when Jane first returned back to work from her leave of absence after Hoyt. Merely a shell.

Amazed that she even agreed to drinks, they weren't surprised when after two quiet and awkward beers later, she announced she was heading home. All evening they'd caught her surreptitious glances towards the door that were promptly followed by the fleeting look of disappointment that cast over her face. It had been painfully obvious that Jane had been clinging on to the hope that Maura would make an appearance. But it wasn't to be.

After a quiet departure with well-wishes for a good weekend thrown over her shoulder, Jane made her way out into the evening chill.

'Right then,' Jane muttered to herself, rolling her shoulders. 'Enough is enough, Maura Isles.'

 

—––

 

Thoughts of her friend filtered through the brunette's mind as she cruised on auto-pilot heading towards Maura's house. Spotting familiar signs for an upcoming turn off for Fenway Park she immediately thought back to the begrudging and somewhat embarrassing conversations with the ME about childhood wedding plans. Her lip curled up slightly as she thought back to recounting her plans to wed at the place she had once considered her second home. Seeing she was fast approaching the park, she flicked the indicator and turned into the grounds and shut off the engine.

Memories of her and Maura laying on that damned mattress in her apartment looped in her head.

'Can I come?'

It had seemed such a simple question at the time. One that she had jokingly responded to without a second thought.

'Maybe.'

But thinking back it had sounded like a serious question. Like Maura genuinely didn't know if she would be welcomed to her big day. Jane immediately felt her heart tug at the thought. How could Maura not know that she was the one person she wanted by her side on her special day.

Wait.

An image flickered into her mind that caused a flutter in her chest. Her friend, standing by her side on her wedding day. But she wasn't a maid of honour, bridesmaid or even ‘best woman’.

Shaking her head she exhaled a half-laugh.

'Jesus Christ,' she muttered to herself, starting up her car.

 

—––

 

A knocking sound in the distance caught the attention of Jane's mother as she was stooped over the kitchen counter, as she waited for the kettle to boil. Too faint to be someone at her own door; someone was knocking for Maura. Unable to quash her curiosity, she went to look and see who would be paying Maura a visit at this hour.

At the familiar sight of her eldest child nervously bouncing on the balls of her feet, she smiled to herself before opening the door.

'Janie?' 

'Oh, sorry Ma. I didn't mean to disturb you. I just wanted to catch Maura. Is she home?' 

'I've not seen her tonight Jane. I'm sorry,' Angela replied, her voice softening as a crestfallen look appeared on her daughter's face. A hushed curse slipped from the wild haired brunette as she ran her fingers through her raven curls.

'Oh honey,' she cooed, as she walked up to her daughter. She wrapped her arms around her and felt relief when Jane didn't pull away. 'Come inside, Jane,' she said after a few moments. 'I've got a hot chocolate with your name on it,' and guided her deflated daughter into the guest house.

Perched on the small couch, the two women quietly sipped at their drinks. Angela cast a concerned glance towards the younger Rizzoli. She bit her tongue as she sat waiting for Jane to say something.

Yeh, she was never very good at being patient. 'So, are you going to tell me what's wrong?' she asked.

Dark, chocolate coloured eyes flickered up from the steaming mug nestled in her hands, a pensive look on her face as she seemed to weigh up just how much to divulge to her mother. She cleared her throat as she came to a decision.

'Maura's avoiding me.'

The shock was immediately apparent on Angela's face.

'What? No, Janie, she..'

'And Casey asked me to marry him.'

If she wasn't feeling so utterly shitty she would have burst out laughing as her mother's eyes almost bugged out of her head. Angela wasn't sure what she was expecting her daughter to come out with, but that certainly hadn't been it.

'Oh.'

'Oh? ' Jane repeated as eyebrows raised. 'That's it ? Your daughter, who you have been basically trying to marry off since you bought me my first training bra has finally been proposed to and all I get from you is " Oh "?

With a look that Jane swore her mother had acquired from Maura, Angela ignored her daughter's over-exaggeration.

'Did you say yes?' Angela asked, keeping her voice level.

Confusion clouded Jane's face at the question. This woman had been pestering her the majority of her adult life about marriage, endlessly trying to fix her up with guy after guy, so how was she not doing cartwheels right now?

'No, I've not given him an answer yet,' she replied, pausing as she watched her mother give an almost imperceptible nod of the head. 'There's um, a lot to think about,' she added.

When she saw the corner of her mother's mouth quirk upwards slightly, she had had enough.

'Alright. Spit it out.' The irritation now obvious on the detective's face.

'Honey, does Maura know about this proposal?'

'Wha..? Of course she does, Ma. She's…she's my best friend.' Her voice slipped from incredulity to soft affection when the fleeting image from earlier at Fenway, chose to sneak back into her head.

Angela reached over and took one of Jane's hands in hers. Something, she realised, she hadn't been able to do since the scars. Jane hadn't let her. But she knew her daughter was slowly changing. Softening. Not that she would ever admit it.

Ever since meeting the demure Doctor Isles, she had noticed subtle changes in her daughter and it warmed her heart seeing the interaction between the two women. So much so that over recent years she came to a quiet understanding and made peace with the idea of the possibility of having three daughter-in-laws in the future as opposed to two. She just had to be patient.

'Obviously, I can't speak for Maura, honey, but I think it sounds as though she's scared,' Angela reasoned.

A puzzled look crossed the detective's face. 'Wha? Scared? What does she have to be scared about?'

Angela lightly shook her head at how oblivious her daughter was. At this rate she could be waiting a very long time.

'You must realise how much time the both of you spend together?' she said gently.

Jane looked deep into her mug, face full of contemplation as she acknowledged that the majority of her free time was spent with her friend. Family dinners were now always spent in her home. They often slept at each others' home – and often together.

How would she still be able to do all this if she married Casey? She was all too aware of the lengthy hours she worked. She knew that any spare time she had, she'd be obliged to spend it with her husband. 

Obliged

She shouldn't feel like it's an obligation to spend time with your other half. She should want to spend that time with them. Look forward to it. Like she did with Maura. If she were truly honest with herself, she knew that she didn't want things to change. She liked her life as it was. She liked her evenings in, and occasionally out, with her friend. She was happy.

They noticed movement through the window and the sound of keys as a door was opened. Jane bolted up and placed her mug on the coffee table, turning to leave before turning back and planting a kiss on the top of her mother's head.

'Thanks, Ma.' 

'Are you going to be okay, honey?'

Jane gave her mother a warm, dimpled smile. 'I think everything's going to be okay.' And with that, she turned and left.

—––

Maura was fetching herself an ice-cold bottle of water from the refrigerator before retiring for the night when there was a light tapping at her door. Wondering what Angela could possibly need at this hour, she swiftly crossed the room to open the door. She was completely caught off guard when her eyes fell upon the figure of her best friend.

Now Jane had finally got Maura in front of her, she realised she had no idea what to say. They both stood there, somewhat dazed. Eventually, Jane snapped out of her reverie and started to inch closer. Eyes firmly fixed on hazel.

'Please, Maura. Just…let me..'. Her whispered words breaking off as she reached out and wrapped her arms around the woman stood before her. The relief she felt was immense when she felt the arms of her friend encircling her waist. Elated that Maura hadn't pushed her away, she grew bolder and held her tight against her body so that there was barely a hair's breadth between them.

Fast, shallow breath against her neck alerted Jane to the fact that she had caused Maura to cry again, but she was in her arms now. Everything was going to be okay. She could fix this. Moving her head ever so slightly, her nose brushed against honey-coloured locks. The familiar scent that exudes class, sophistication and, to Jane, the overwhelming feeling of home, filled her.

She nuzzled into the woman's neck a little more, hoping to God that she hadn't made a serious lapse in judgement and ending up making the biggest mistake of her life.

'Maura,' she breathed, as she softly ran a calloused hand down her friend's spine. 'You never did learn how to ask for what you want, did you?'

Maura stiffened slightly, as her mind raced. Her words from talking about her parents coming back to her.

Jane pulled back a little more, to catch Maura's teary eyes with her own, and the next time the brunette spoke, Maura could feel the words brush against her lips.

'I'm not going anywhere, Maura.'

Hazel eyes slowly started to widen when the meaning of the detective's words started to sink in.

'So um…you're probably going to end up stuck with me, I'm afraid,' Jane continued, as her eyes roamed over her friend's face. They quickly flicked up to Maura's eyes again before her gaze settled on the ME's lips. 'Is that..okay?' she asked quietly as she leaned in that little bit more. A shiver ran down her spine as she felt Maura's warm breath against her lips.

Noses softly bumped together when Maura nodded in reply before soft, tentative lips met for the first time. Jane smiled into the fledgeling kiss as the image of her and Maura at Fenway returned full force.