Disclaimer: I don't own Rizzoli & Isles

Chapter 1

For once, Dr. Maura Isles left her office—otherwise known as the morgue—at a reasonable hour, and she was snuggled up on the couch in her pajamas with a takeout container on her lap before seven.

But she wasn't eating the increasingly lukewarm curry dish; the tears had started falling before she had pulled the plastic box out of the microwave and the lump in her throat kept her from swallowing properly. She felt as though everything she had done for the last week had been leading up to this moment, the moment when she would finally let herself realize how painful the final step in her plan would actually be. The moment when she looked inside herself and knew, with every raw emotional nerve in the non-reasonable part of her psyche, that she was alone and would always be alone.

For as long as she could remember, Maura had never made friends easily. Brains and beauty could be a powerful combination—lots of her classmates in school had been attracted to her spirit, energy, and intelligence, but most were easily put off by the fierce self-confidence in her own abilities that could so easily be mistaken for arrogance.

Then, when she did make a good friend, she had this bad habit of falling in love with them. The first was a boy she met on the debate team in high school. He was not terribly good looking and his taste in clothes was horrendous, but Maura enjoyed spending time with him and in many ways found him her intellectual equal. Most of all she liked the idea of having a friend—someone that she could sit with at lunch and share inside jokes with. As the end of the school year approached Maura found herself fantasizing that they would go to the junior prom together, and suddenly this awkward and shy boy seemed much more attractive than he had been six months previously. She started doing everything she could to get his attention physically—playfully ruffling his hair, touching his arm. But as the prom got closer and he still hadn't asked her, she grew worried. Instead of making his affection for her known, he seemed increasingly distant and too often her attempts to joke with him fell flat. She couldn't hide her disappointment when she spent prom night alone in her bedroom and their friendship ended rapidly thereafter. It wasn't until her second year of college that she found out that he had rejected her only because he was gay but the experience had left its mark on her fragile ego.

In college she found many more opportunities for sexual intimacy than she had in high school, and she took advantage of those opportunities as any beautiful woman would. But she had little luck with friendship. The boys she dated were rarely her friends, nor did they become anything more than occasional lovers. She craved the closeness of a real friendship but she didn't finally click with anyone until the middle of her senior year. The friendship with Kate had snuck up on her—it seemed like one day they were studying organic chemistry together and the next they were buying season tickets to the symphony and spending half the night talking in the dorms. The physical attraction to Kate came just as quickly and once again Maura tried to find excuses to touch her friend in increasingly intimate ways. By now Maura had read a great deal about human sexuality and it somehow didn't surprise her that she was attracted to women. What did surprise her was the intensity of the attraction. It was like nothing she had ever felt for a man before.

The depth of her feelings only made the inevitable rejection that much harder. When Maura finally got up the nerve to tell her friend how she was feeling, Kate's response was so hurtful that Maura didn't leave her dorm room for nearly a week. By the end of that week, she had vowed to herself to never open herself up to such pain again. She realized that to Kate, the two women had just been good friends. Kate had probably had a dozen other such friendships in her lifetime. But to Maura, friendship meant love, attraction, and physical intimacy. It seemed as though she couldn't just be friends with someone—once she made a mental connection, she wanted a physical connection too.

With old wounds now opened and made deeper, Maura entered medical school. She threw herself into her work and excelled in her field, but rebuffed any of her classmates who tried to get to know her better. By the time she finished her second year of the program she was already known as Queen of the Dead—and not just because she planned on specializing in forensic medicine. As she finished school and then launched into her career as a medical examiner, Maura refused to let anyone in.

Until she met Jane. When Maura took the job with Boston Homicide she worried that she might not get along with Jane Rizzoli, the detective she was assigned to work with, simply because of the difference in their backgrounds. Even before she had met Jane, Maura knew that a female cop in an entirely male department would have to be a strong-willed and formidable woman. She worried that her new colleague would resent her or feel as though they had to compete for the attention of the male members of the department. So those first few weeks as they began to build a working relationship Maura remained icily professional, a demeanor that she had perfected in medical school.

But there was a reason that Jane Rizzoli was an excellent police officer: she knew how to read people. She could subconsciously detect discrepancies between the words a person said and the look in their eyes, or the messages given off by body language. She looked at Maura Isles and saw right through her—the phenomenal intelligence and sensitivity at her core, the electric current of insecurities that flickered through her on a regular basis, and the dull ache of loneliness that pulsed through the designer dresses and heels. Jane had no intention of trying to analyze or unpack Maura's emotional baggage, but simply accepted her as she was. Jane Rizzoli was nothing if not loyal, and once she saw how committed Maura was to her job, and how much of an asset the new doctor was to the team, she pulled her into her circle of friends with no regrets.

Maura's attitude toward Jane took a bit longer to thaw, however. She refused to call the detective anything other than Rizzoli, even though Jane used her first name often enough. When Christmas came around Maura refused to take part in the festivities, pushing away all glasses of the free-flowing eggnog being passed around at the department party. She contributed the most generic gift she could think of to the gift exchange—Starbucks gift cards—and was utterly flabbergasted when Jane, who had drawn her name, gave her a book of poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Inside the card Jane had written,

"I know your favorite thing in the world is science, but I figure anyone who has as many Jimmy Choos as you do must really appreciate the finer things in life. I read these poems in high school and I've always liked them. I hope you do too." The card was signed, simply: "Merry Christmas, Jane."

Maura saved that card in a little drawer in her desk at home, but the walls around her heart didn't really begin to come down until she had been working in Boston for nearly a year. The dispatcher had called her to a scene early one morning and the tone in her voice told Maura that this particular case was going to be anything but routine. Sure enough, when she arrived she found three bodies shot execution style in an upscale home and the FBI were already there. Maura immediately began her examination, doing her best to ignore the arguments between Jane's partner, Korsak, and the FBI agents over jurisdiction and precedent. She had barely had time to check the core temperature of the first of the three corpses when one of the agents walked over to her.

"Hey doc, what can you give us?"

Maura cringed inwardly. The FBI always expected immediate answers, and it would literally be hours before she had any significant information for them. She hoped her voice didn't betray her annoyance.

"Well, agent, I believe we have three dead bodies, all of which appear to be male . . ."

"Appear to be male?"

"Yes, their clothing, physical stature, and noticeable facial hair seem to indicate as much, but I am not yet entirely positive."

The agent turned to one of his colleagues and sputtered, "Is this chick for real?" just as Jane arrived on the scene. Maura caught the detective's eye and immediately blushed in embarrassment because it was clear that she had added fuel to the fire—a fire Jane would now have to put out. She put her head down and continued working.

The FBI agent turned to her again. "Doc, you've got to tell us more than that. I know we didn't go to med school, but we can see that the victims are male."

Still keeping her eyes on the corpses, she responded as politely as she could, "They appear to have been shot at close range, but that's all I can tell you at this point, agent. I won't know anything else until I complete the autopsy."

"Complete the autopsy? The way you people in homicide work that could be days, a week! Can you tell me how I'm supposed to solve this case if you can't tell me more than what I can already see with my own fucking eyes?"

Maura felt her heart pounding as she tried to figure out the best way to respond. She knew that the agent wanted her to guess at the type of gun used at the very least, but she couldn't do that. Her guess might be wrong, and that might create even more problems for the agents. She looked at Jane, fearing the worst. Knowing that Jane had on many occasions been frustrated with the slow pace at which she worked, she worried that the detective might try to force a shaky guess from her. But she didn't have time to think of a reply before Jane spoke up.

"Hey! You cannot speak to Dr. Isles that way! She is the best M.E. this department has ever had and if she tells you that it's going to take an entire month to give you a report then that's how long you'll wait!"

Then she took the two agents by the arms and led them into another room, leaving Maura to work in peace. The argument continued, but Maura blocked out the voices and kept working, until she heard the door open and looked up to see Jane poke her head in.

"Hey Maura, you okay?"

Maura knew the relief must be showing on her face so she didn't even try to give the impression that she hadn't cared about how the agent had acted.

"Yes, I'm okay. Thanks for the backup."

"No problem—us 'chicks' have to stick together. Just don't say anything about a reddish-brown stain this time, okay?"

Then she smiled at Maura, a big, goofy, tired grin, and winked. Maura smiled back, involuntarily, and even giggled a little. A feeling of warmth and comfort came over her, and she knew immediately what it was: the sense of peace and belonging that comes with friendship. She worried about what that meant, but she knew that she wanted to feel it again.