Maura straightened her posture almost imperceptibly, her shoulders squaring, her chin raising ever so slightly.
She was adorning herself with her social status, her rigid upbringing, sliding into it like a suit of armor, a Chanel shrug.
It wouldn't, couldn't protect her from this. But it was better than nothing.
Maura was unprepared for this war, ill-equipped for this battle. She was hopeless in this fight, but she marched into the theatre of war with her head held high.
The room was decorated in muted taupes and soft whites, an attempt, Maura assumed, to make it seem less institutional. The seven-member panel sat facing her when she entered, two feet above the rest of the room and filling her entire field of vision.
Her attorney, Steven, sat at the table in the center of the room, and she joined him there. A stenographer sat in the corner, fingers poised idly at the machine.
Maura wore a navy sheath dress and navy pumps. Her hair was pulled back in a tight bun and her grey pearl earrings drew the eye to the matching necklace around her throat. She looked professional but undeniably feminine.
It had been 96 six days since Maura had seen Jane, spoke to her, worked with her.
Maura had been on a mandatory leave of absence pending the decision of whether or not to revoke her medical license. The seven people in front of her held her entire life, her entire future, in their hands.
Three women and four men, all in their sixties. All doctors, things like neurosurgery and obstetrics and oncology. Never stepped foot outside the hospital, or worked in a desperate, ill-equipped environment.
How on earth could they understand the position she'd been put in? How the hell could they understand the choice she'd been forced to make?
If she herself didn't quite understand, if Jane didn't, if the people at the precinct didn't understand- how the hell would these seven get it?
"Ms. Isles," the woman left of center addressed her. Not Dr. Isles. Not right now, and maybe never again.
"Yes," Maura responded, proud of the even neutrality in her voice.
"How are you today?" the woman asked, and Maura thought it a tactless question. How was she supposed to be, given the circumstances?
"I'm well," she replied. "And yourself?"
"I'm fine, thank you," the woman nodded. "Shall we begin?"
Maura didn't respond but a salt-and-pepper haired man glanced up at her and saved her from attempting to.
"You've been on suspension for 90 days," he said. "Is that correct?"
"It is," Maura confirmed.
"And what have you been doing with that time?" he asked.
"I've been working at the Tufts Hospital for Children," Maura replied. "Running their charitable wing. I've also been taking a number of continuing education classes in medicine, including ethics."
Maura felt the words coming out, knew it was her voice, but she couldn't reconcile it with the empty detachment she felt at the moment.
"Dr. Isles," Maura recognized Steven speaking. "Is completely committed to the ethical, moral, and safe practice of medicine. She has taken the time during her suspension to refresh her skills and knowledge and has also done a great deal for the hospital and the community."
Steven and Maura had met when she was in medical school. They were friends, and while they had never been particularly close, Maura had come to trust and care for him. He was ten years older than Maura, dignified, intelligent, considerate and a damn good lawyer.
"And do you believe that if your license was reinstated," a different man spoke, "you would make the same choices now?"
They weren't choices, Maura wanted to say. She didn't choose- she acted.
And yes, she would do the same thing again. Every time.
No amount of continuing education or threat to her livelihood, to her life, would make her act differently. Not even now, with the weight of the consequences nearly crushing her.
Not Jane's silence, not her parent's shame, not her total isolation.
She had been practicing this for weeks, this lie. She'd stand in front of the mirror for hours, knowing this question would be asked.
Would she make the same choice?
"No sir," she spoke clearly, her tone even. Her back was straight. She didn't flinch, fidget, or shift. "I would not make those same decisions again."
Steven relaxed almost imperceptibly beside her. In their first few meetings, she'd been adamant about telling the truth. He'd tried, almost desperately, to convince her that this was one of the rare times when lying was absolutely necessary.
It was only after Jane refused to talk to her that Maura acquiesced.
Maura had never been able to lie successfully before meeting Jane. Now the lie rolled smoothly off her tongue. There was a painful irony about it, about the way she learned to lie to protect herself from Jane.
She had been terrified of telling Jane she was in love with her. At first, she simply demurred, avoided. Practiced small falsehoods, stretching the truth.
Now she could lie effortlessly, at least when it came to Jane.
She could lie effortlessly to Jane.
And Jane, who still thought that Maura couldn't lie, believed her.
The panel seemed satisfied. They asked half a dozen additional questions, scribbled things on their files, and finally the first woman addressed her again.
"While we do not condone your actions," she had a note of distinct disapproval in her voice, but it cleared. "We understand that you were under great duress. Given your work these past few months and your commitment to excellence, we feel confident in renewing your license. Congratulations, Dr. Isles."
Maura felt nothing.
She was vaguely aware of Steven speaking, and when he stood she did as well.
"Thank you," she managed to find her voice. Steven ushered her out of the room with a gentle hand on her elbow, and she was thankful for the guidance and support.
Outside, in the harsh afternoon sunlight, Maura squinted against the glare, absently wondering where she had forgotten her sunglasses.
"Maura," Steven's voice broke her trance. "Are you going to be ok?"
Maura stared off down the busy Boston street with unseeing eyes.
"I don't think I really have a choice," she replied.
"Are you going back to work today?" Steven sounded worried.
"No," Maura shook her head. "Not today." There was a note of finality in her voice.
"But," Steven's brow furrowed. "You are going back, right?"
Maura met his eyes. The surprise on his face was clear.
In the interest of full disclosure, Maura had told him everything. Told him about that cold, damp day. About the weeks preceding. About her work, her life. About Jane.
Jane who wanted to protect Maura. Jane who believed Maura when the M.E. told her, I love you Jane, but I'm not in love with you.
Jane who hadn't spoken to her in months.
Maura glanced down at her watch.
Make that 97 days.
97 days without seeing the woman Maura had thought would always be in her life. Days with out seeing the friend she thought she would see every day for the rest of her life. Days without seeing the woman she thought she couldn't live without.
And she was right.
She was alive, but she wasn't living.
She wasn't sure she knew how anymore.
She felt like she hadn't taken a full breath in weeks, months.
"Maura," Steven prompted. "You're going back, right?"
Maura looked around again at the bustling city around herself. Not so long ago, it felt like home. The house she owned, the precinct, the cafe she loved, the Dirty Robber... Those things used to feel warm and safe and comforting. They made her think of Boston as home, made her plan to stay forever.
But in retrospect, it wasn't the places that made her feel that way.
It was Jane.
"No, Steven," she met his eyes, a harsh determination in her gaze, a plan forming in her mind. "I will not be returning to my former position, if they'd even have me at this point."
"You know they would," he offered, but Maura could sense his resignation.
"My parents have a flat in Paris," Maura told him. "I was always happy there as a young girl. Maybe I can be again someday."
"Maura," Steven began, but he knew trying to dissuade her was useless.
"Thank you for all your hard work," Maura put a soft hand on his arm. "For everything. Your support has been instrumental."
"You're welcome," he covered Maura's hand with his own. "Please call me when you get settled. It's been years since I've been in Paris."
Maura attempted a small smile and nodded.
"Goodbye Steven," she said.
"See you later," his lips tilted up. Impulsively he kissed Maura on the cheek, lingering for a moment. "Take care kid."
Maura hailed a cab, sliding inside and rattling off her address. In the foyer of her house, she took a long, sorrowful look around, realizing again just how much it felt foreign and empty now.
None of the comfort she'd grown accustomed to seemed present.
The light on the answering machine was blinking and she furrowed her brow. No one called her on her home phone.
"Maura?" Angela's voice greeted her. "Sweetie we need to talk. I tried your cell and you didn't answer. Please talk to me. I know your review was today. I'm worried about you."
Maura collapsed onto the couch, her chest tight.
Angela had been calling every day since Maura was suspended- 90 phone calls unanswered, most of them unreturned. Maura didn't deserve to intrude on Jane's life, to be a part of her family, after lying about loving her.
Angela had moved out of the guest-house without commenting, and Maura didn't know how to tell her to stay. Maura had been a horrible friend to Jane, and Angela should hate her as much as Jane did.
But the Rizzoli women were nothing if not stubborn.
Picking up the phone, Maura dialed Angela's number.
"Maura sweetie," Angela greeted. "I'm so glad you called. I've been so worried about you. How was your meeting?"
Maura wondered idly how Angela knew but was too drained to care.
"It went well," Maura replied. "I've had my license restored."
"That's wonderful," Angela enthused. "It will be so wonderful to have you back at work. The doctor filling in for you is not nearly as smart as you, and very boring, and his cologne-"
Maura swallowed harshly.
"I won't be returning," she said softly.
There was a pregnant pause and Maura felt tears prick her eyes.
"Did they not offer you your job back?" Angela sputtered, astonished and outraged. "Those baboons wouldn't know a good-"
"No, Angela," Maura interrupted softly. "I didn't ask. I just can't go back. After what happened, the way everyone looks at me now..."
Maura allowed her tears to fall in the diffuse light of her living room, curtains closed against the world.
"Maura," Angela's affectionate tone made Maura whimper. "I don't know what happened between you and Jane. I can't pretend to understand the things you two have been through together. But I know Janie, and I know you, and you don't just let love like this slip away."
"Jane doesn't lo-"
Angela cut her off before the thought could fully form.
"You're not fooling anyone," she suggested gently. "I'm not sure what's holding you back, whether it's fear or shame or something else... I've never seen love like Jane's got for you. You can run sweetie, but you'll never get away from it."
"I'm not ashamed," Maura responded softly, but without hesitation or doubt. She wasn't ashamed of Jane, or of loving her. She'd wasted enough years worrying about what other people thought- that wouldn't stop her from loving Jane.
"I'm glad to hear that," Angela replied. "It would be stupid to throw happiness away because of what other people might think."
"I'm going to Paris," Maura blurted. "Indefinitely."
Angela was silent for an eternity.
"Angela?" Maura finally prompted.
"I'm disappointed in you," Angela's voice sounded more sad than anything else. "I expected better from you."
"Jane doesn't want to even speak to me," Maura cried. "I haven't seen her in three months! I have no reason to stay in Boston."
"No reason?" Angela asked, hurt in her tone. "What about your friends? Me and Frankie and Frost and Korsak... We're still here."
And they had been.
All of them had reached out, tried to help or comfort or support her in myriad ways. But she had withdrawn into herself, so heartbroken that being around people who reminded her of Jane was enough to bring her to tears.
"I know," Maura was apologetic. "But Angela, everything reminds me of Jane. The whole city is... Tainted. I'll never be able to put this behind me if I stay."
"Put it behind you? You're running," Angela accused softly. "Just think about what you're doing. And remember that you haven't really tried to talk to Jane either. She isn't the only one who can use a phone. And you aren't the only one who's hurting. I think you should come to dinner tomorrow night and we can talk about all of this."
There was commotion in the background and Maura would have sworn she heard Jane's voice. Angela muffled the phone for a moment, her voice garbled, before returning.
"I've gotta go sweetie," she said. "I'll call you tomorrow. I love you."
Maura wanted to admit she loved Angela too, that the woman was the mother Maura had always dreamt of, but she couldn't find the words.
"Goodbye," she said instead.
Angela hung up and Maura held the phone to her ear for a moment longer, loathe to end the connection.
In the morning, she called her mother and discussed the Paris flat. They spoke like business associates, like strangers, and her mother did not profess any love before ending the call.
Maura locked up her home, shipping Bass ahead to France. She'd keep the Boston home so she would always have somewhere to stay in America if she ever felt like returning.
Three days later she was in Paris.
It was comfortable and familiar, and her rusty French returned rather quickly. The city was like an ex-lover, welcoming her with warmth but equal parts reserve and distance as well.
She established a routine, reading and researching, determined to use the time to write the scholarly articles she had put off while at BPD. She strolled the bustling streets, drank coffee and watched the world go by.
But the ache in her chest did not diminish.
For a month she worked and walked, kept to herself and tried to dissect the past few months in her mind.
She thought about Jane endlessly. Dreamt about her.
From the safe distance of another continent, Maura allowed herself to wonder what it would have been like to be with Jane. To kiss her. Make love to her. Date her.
She dreamt about Jane in her arms, bringing her nearly unbearable pleasure. But also about Jane in her home, bringing her dinner.
She dreamt about the life they might have had together. The dark eyed, curly-haired girls they would have had. The perfect family they would have made.
At first it was almost too much to bear, but then she grew accustomed to it. The grief and agony became a part of her, something as natural and familiar as her own skin.
Sometimes, she thought she saw Jane. In the metro, crossing the street, outside her flat...
She knew better though.
Six weeks into her trip, Maura answered one of Angela's phone calls.
They chatted for a moment, and when Maura hung up she felt odd and sorrowful and like drawing another breath was impossible.
It took her two days to realize the feeling was homesickness.
She had to look it up online. She'd never been homesick before, never had a place she felt loved and cherished and protected enough in to miss it when she left.
The feeling haunted her for days afterwards, so she ignored her phone, hoping that she could avoid the feeling by not hearing Angela's voice.
Maura had been in Paris for two months and the empty, aching feeling behind her breastbone hadn't abated.
She arrived home late one night to see the light on the answering machine blinking.
Only her parents called on that line. She listened absently as she changed clothes.
They had been planning to visit her in Paris but would have to reschedule. Their conference in Geneva had gone over a day, and all their friends were going to Barcelona afterwards, and would Maura mind postponing the visit for a few more weeks?
Slipping into black slacks and a mint green sweater, donning a light jacket and wrapping a scarf elegantly around her neck, Maura set out for a glass of wine and a walk.
She needed to clear her head, to figure out why hearing her parents, having them postpone, didn't upset her while just the sound of Angela's voice had sent her into a days-long tailspin
After a glass of wine at her favorite bar, Maura set out for a walk along the Seine. She thought about calling Jane. About seeing her.
She wondered if Jane was different. If she looked different, acted differently. She wondered if the other woman was sleeping enough, eating right, watching her drinking. Was she still using the same lotion, shampoo, toothpaste? Was she still sporting that well-worn black suit? Those scuffed, leather boots?
She wondered if Jane missed her even a fraction of how badly she missed Jane.
Maura knew that she could reach out, that she could be the one to bridge the space between them, but she was too afraid. If she reached out to Jane and was turned away, she would never survive.
The silence was killing her enough as it was. At least this way, she could pretend.
After an hour or so, she began the journey back to the flat. She walked slowly, in no hurry to return to the looming, open apartment void of life or love.
She thought about what she should do to better her life. Thought about finding a job in Paris, or maybe London. About starting over, starting new, trying to live some semblance of a life. About someday, when she didn't feel so acutely broken, adopting a child.
The dim streets of Paris, cobblestones worn under her feet, didn't offer any answers.
Outside the building she'd spent childhood summers in, she paused.
It was a beautiful antique structure, well-maintained and elegantly decorated. It was steeped in history, and the steps leading up opened into a gorgeous foyer that was so lovely it made Maura breathless.
A shadowy figure caught Maura's gaze and she could hear Jane's voice in her head, warning her about strangers.
The lanky figure moved into the arc of the light from the lamppost and Maura's breath caught. Her entire body seized.
Two feet in front of her stood Jane.