In the first few weeks of their friendship, Jane had once commented that the particulars of a case felt like déjà vu.
Her presence in the morgue in those days had been inexplicable to Maura, who was used to anyone who wasn’t on her staff entering and leaving as quickly as possible, not the protracted lingering that Detective Rizzoli had taken to over the course of the last few weeks. Maura didn’t mind; and although she didn’t quite understand what it was that the detective wanted, she still gamely, if bemusedly, kept up her end of the conversation.
“Déjà vu - already seen,” she said, and looked up from her autopsy to meet Jane’s blank and equally bemused stare. “That’s what it translates to,” she clarified. “Psychologists aren’t actually certain what triggers the phenomenon, but the term generally refers to a sense of having experienced something that one hasn’t actually experienced. Do you mean that you sense you’ve seen this before, or that you know you have?”
Detective Rizzoli sighed, but in a way that was more reflective of her mental state than of frustration with Maura. “I don’t know, Maura. Does it really matter?”
“Well, if you’ve actually seen it before then you could potentially locate the memory and discover its relevance to the case,” Maura said. “I believe it does matter.”
“I don’t know. It’s more a feeling that something’s just out of reach. The pieces are all there if I can fit them together. Is there a fancy name for that too?”
She was teasing, but Maura nodded. “Presque vu. ‘Almost seen’. The feeling that you’re on the brink of an epiphany. Usually accompanied by feelings of intense frustration at the perception of near-completeness.”
“Yeah, that about sums it up,” Detective Rizzoli agreed with a sigh. “Any cure for it, Doctor?”
Maura only smiled. “You yourself are uniquely suited to finding your own cure.”
“Translation - shut up and get back to your detective thing,” Jane parsed with a smile of her own. “Yeah, yeah, loud and clear.”
“I never told you to shut up,” Maura objected, momentarily worried that she’d offended her; but Jane was already at the door, and she chuckled at Maura’s consternation.
“I know, but you’re right anyway,” she said. “I’ll see you later.”
It wasn’t quite déjà vu in the technical sense of the term either where Maura was sitting four years later, the back of her brain mused, simply because she factually knew that this was an experience she’d already had – albeit with a different mother. Déjà vécu, perhaps, if that term didn’t have its own pathological connotations.
Across from her, Hope was starting to look concerned at Maura’s awkward laughter in response to her question. “I’m sorry,” she said, “have I assumed incorrectly?”
“You have, but it’s alright,” Maura assured her. “Jane and I are not a couple, but I’m not offended at the assumption.”
“Ah,” Hope said, but embarrassment still clouded her features. “Well, I apologize anyway.”
“Apology accepted, but not needed. I should probably have clarified it for you before now. We have a… unique relationship, I’ve come to understand. It’s not easily categorized.”
Hope looked as though she had several questions from what Maura’s statement; and to give her time, Maura took a sip of her pinot grigio. It wasn’t the first time she’d gone out for a meal with her biological mother, but it seemed that it was the first time that they were treading into the definitions that made up Maura’s personal life.
Maura didn’t blame her for the assumption. The assumption was actually a very safe one given the myriad evidence that largely centered on Jane’s ubiquitous presence in her life, her house, her kitchen, and sometimes – if platonically – her bed. There had been relatively few times, in fact, that Hope had ever happened upon her when she hadn’t already been in Jane’s presence. If this were evidence pertaining to a current case, Jane herself would likely be very comfortable in reading the situation just as Hope had just now.
It wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of a scientific approach, no – but then, Maura knew that things were rarely so black and white in science as the ordinary layperson made them out to be.
“Forgive me if I’m prying,” Hope said cautiously, “but do I understand correctly that you’ve had to correct other people before?”
“Not so many. Most of the people in my life, and in Jane’s life, are around us frequently enough and have been for a long enough period of time that I believe they understand without needing clarification. Unless they’ve gone to Jane instead of me, which is entirely possible. The only other person I’ve had to actually correct is my mother. Constance.”
She’d been able to understand Constance’s assumption at the time, too, given that both Jane and Angela had been at the dinner at her home, as well as whatever talking-to that Jane had given her at her art exhibition.
Then again, Maura suddenly realized, Jane and Angela had been at the first dinner she’d hosted for Hope. Maybe stop inviting your best friend and her mother – who lives with you! – to meet your mothers, said an internal voice that sounded suspiciously like Jane. Maura hushed it.
“Overbearing mothers,” Hope said with an apologetic smile in a way that wasn’t an apology at all. Maura returned it and didn’t comment. “Well, is there anyone else in your life?”
Maura bit back the instinctive ‘Just Jane.’ “No, not right now,” she admitted. “I haven’t had the best track record recently, and I’m not eager to try again at the moment.”
“Hmm,” Hope said. She seemed to be biting back a comment of her own, but Maura didn’t press her for it.
“Hey, how was your brunch with Hope?” Jane asked distractedly when she called later that afternoon.
Fine. Frustrating. But fine, really – fine. Maura said none of this, and instead went with “It was nice to see her. She sends her regards.” Which was true.
“Does she?” Jane sounded doubtful. “Well, that’s nice of her, I guess. I’m glad you guys had a good time. Hey, I wanted to ask, do you want me to pick up anything tonight? I’ve just gotta finish helping Frankie get his new TV set up and I’m on my way over. Shouldn’t take more than an hour.”
“Are you sure you don’t just want to stay there and test it out yourself?” Maura teased. “Based on experience, I highly doubt it will only be an hour.”
“I said an hour, it’ll be an hour,” Jane insisted, and her voice turned cheeky. “You’ve got a TV, too, and I’ve got a feeling your 64-inch screen beats his any day.”
“Don’t be so sure - I helped him with his selection. The two models are actually fairly comparable. The curve of the screen – “
“Maura,” Jane’s voice came dryly over the speaker. “I’ll see you in an hour.”
Maura smiled, pleased. “Alright. See you soon.”
Saturday at five o’clock often would have seen Maura getting ready for a date or an event not so long ago, but they’d slowly migrated almost without her noticing into an extension of her weeknights – at least as far as she could expect to be in Jane’s company, one way or another.
Hope hadn’t been wrong. She and Jane were together more often than not, and their relationship did bear many of the markers of what most people considered to denote a romantic relationship. Maura likely could have answered Hope’s question by giving the approximate date of the beginning of their friendship without breaking out into hives – but it would have been a semantic lie even if it wasn’t a factual one, and Maura didn’t want to complicate Hope’s perception of what she acknowledged was already an ambiguous relationship from an outsider’s perspective.
Maura was aware that cooking dinner for them both for the fourth time this week, for instance, had the appearance of intimacy and domesticity usually associated with romantic partners. As did Jane’s preferred beer in her fridge, one of Jane’s blazers on the back of one of her chairs, and Jane’s handwriting on her shopping list. And that was just what Maura could see from where she was standing.
“Honey, I’m home!”
Maura rubbed her head at the facetious words as Jane let herself in, bearing a bottle of one of Maura’s favorite wines that was within Jane’s price range. She stopped short when she caught sight of Maura.
“I knew it, something is wrong,” she said as she finished kicking off her shoes. “You’ve seemed off all day. Something did happen with Hope, didn’t it? What, did she ask you for another kidney? ‘Cause you don’t have another one of those to spare.”
“Stop,” Maura chastised her and accepted the wine. “I’m fine. How is Frankie enjoying his new television?”
“Oh I don’t know,” Jane said airily, moving around Maura to peek at what was cooking on the stove. “He was glued to the screen when I left so I’d say that’s a pretty good indication that he likes it. What fancy thing are we eating tonight?”
“It’s beef bourguignon, and it’s not fancy. Although I am doing it on the stove to save time instead of in the oven, which is traditional – “
“Okay, anything that you have to throw up in your mouth to say because it’s in French is automatically fancy.”
“ – but the wine you brought should be an excellent accompaniment,” Maura finished, throwing Jane an exasperated look at her interruption.
Jane smirked, but the fondness it in mitigated any negative teasing that might have been implied. “I’m sure it’s going to be amazing. It already smells incredible.”
“It should; it’s been simmering for two hours,” Maura replied absently as she turned to test the tenderness of the meat.
“Ooh la la, Docteur Isles,” Jane said behind her in the offensive accent she put on sometimes to mock Maura’s use of French. “Eef I’d known vhat a big date you were planning – “
Maura had never been sure why said offensive accent often turned vaguely Slavic along the way, but had learned better than to say anything about it and risk bringing more of it upon herself. Despite herself she turned around, interested in how Jane was intending on completing that clause.
Jane faltered as soon as she was confronted with Maura’s eyes. “I – I dunno, I’d have brought better wine?”
“If I had been planning a date, the onus would have been on me to supply the alcoholic beverages,” Maura said, pouring them both a glass with a smile she couldn’t repress. “And I probably would have opted for something you’d drink more of, and more quickly.”
Jane affected a scandalized gasp. “Le audacite,” she exclaimed, but accepted the wine when it was offered and smiled impishly. “What’s the proper toast for the occasion?”
Maura chuckled, clinked their glasses, and said, “Trinqons.”
“And what does that mean?”
Jane laughed and did as suggested by Maura’s toast. “How do you say ‘let’s eat?’”
“Well, how about we banjo over at the table? I’m starving.”
Surprisingly, Jane didn’t bring up her conversation with Hope or the idea that something was bothering Maura again for the rest of the evening. It relieved Maura as much as it concerned her. Jane wasn’t adept at letting things go, particularly when it came to Maura. She was adept, however, at waiting until she had the leverage she wanted to get the information she needed: just one of the many things that made her so very excellent at her job.
They made their way through most of the bottle of wine over the next few hours, slowly enough to prevent either of them becoming overly intoxicated, but in sufficient quantity that Jane’s blood alcohol concentration was certainly over safe limits to drive when she started yawning.
Jane only offered a token protest when Maura hauled her off the couch and pushed her in the direction of her guest bedroom. “Okay, okay, I’m going,” she said as she went, before immediately adding, “and yes, I’ll brush my teeth, wouldn’t want an attack of the plaque.”
Even their ‘goodnights’ across the hallway were uneventful. Normal. Still, Maura lay awake in the dark of her room for a long time afterwards. So what if Hope had been right? So what if her mother had been right too over two years ago? What did that substantially change except for the way Maura perceived the situation she was currently in? What did it matter when, four years into the most meaningful relationship of her life, she’d never had so much as a hint that Jane was attracted to women? Dwelling on it, or worse, giving herself over to any one of the nascent fantasies nipping at her mind, could only end in disaster.
“Maur? You awake?”
Jane’s voice was soft at the crack in her door. Maura could just make out the silhouette of her tall frame and wild dark curls.
She sighed. “Yes. You can come in.”
Jane took the invitation and came to sit on the edge of Maura’s bed. “You okay?”
“Just having trouble falling asleep.” She scooted over to make room before she’d thought about it, and Jane was climbing in before she could think of a reason to tell her not to. It was comforting in the way it always was on the rare occasions she and Jane slept next to each other, which she ascribed belatedly to an intimacy that went beyond simple shared body heat. “What’s keeping you up?” she asked to distract herself.
“I don’t know. Restless, I guess. It happens a couple times a week.”
“Perhaps you should have a sleep study performed,” Maura suggested. “Depending on how frequently you’re having problems, you may be experiencing long term insomnia.”
Jane’s nose wrinkled. “And get myself hooked up to a bunch of crap while strangers creepily watch me sleep? No thanks. I’ll deal the way I always do.”
“What, by crawling in bed with me?” Maura said without thinking, but was unable to entirely regret it when Jane’s lascivious smile returned.
“Vhy, Docteur Isles, s’il vous plait have your wicked, wicked way.”
Maura couldn’t help her laugh, but she did drag an arm over her eyes in an attempt to hide her inexplicable embarrassment.
“I’m actually really more of a third date kinda girl,” Jane offered, which meant that she’d read the gesture correctly. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Maura said. She wasn’t sure how many times she’d said it that night, which meant that if Jane wasn’t already certain that she was deflecting, she was now. “I think I’m just tired.”
“Hey, I get it. I can leave if you want.”
“No, stay,” Maura said, catching her arm before she could move.
“Okay,” Jane said, and lay back down. “I’ll be extra quiet, you won’t even know I’m here.”
That much was unlikely. Maura had become too attuned to her, could sense every breath she took and where her hands and limbs lay under the covers near to Maura’s. It would be very easy to reach out if Maura wanted to, and she didn’t doubt that Jane would permit it. Maura was on a very short list of people who was allowed easy physical access to Jane, and as much as she treasured that access, she wouldn’t risk abusing it while she was experiencing this kind of confusion.
Jane had closed her eyes and was clearly on her way to drifting off again. Maura studied the way the tension that, in Jane, was synonymous with alertness faded away from her face, softening her forehead, jaw, and the corners of her eyes. There was something indefinable yet overwhelming about the intimacy of the moment, the soft ambient light from the streetlamps and moonlight casting the room in a subtle glow, the softness of the blankets they shared that quite suddenly stripped away the last of Maura’s filter between brain and mouth.
“Hope asked me how long we’d been together.”
Jane’s eyes snapped open at her quiet words, but she didn’t seem alarmed. Still, Maura held her breath.
“You mean – how long you and me have been together?” Jane asked.
“What did you say?”
“I told her that we weren’t a couple,” Maura said. Jane merely looked thoughtful, and Maura’s concern bled away into curiosity. “What did you think I would have said?”
“I don’t know. There are a lot of ways to be together,” Jane said. “We’re together right now.”
Maura stared at her. “That isn’t what Hope meant. Answering the wrong question would have been deliberately obtuse on my part.”
“You, being obtuse? Yeah, we can’t have that,” Jane joked, voice raspy with affection.
It was so far removed from any way Maura had envisioned her reacting that she pulled back in sudden suspicion that Jane was more inebriated than either of them had thought. “Are you drunk?” she demanded.
“What? No!” Jane exclaimed, offended and instantly losing her sheen of unguarded calm and in the process becoming more recognizably Jane. “Jeez, I try to have one serious conversation with you…”
“I’m sorry,” Maura said to soothe away disgruntlement. Jane grunted in acknowledgement, so Maura judged she hadn’t been entirely successful. “You just… seem to not be terribly surprised.”
Jane didn’t answer immediately, instead sighing. “Frost might have asked me the same thing,” she said before pausing and mumbling, “and Ma.”
Angela. Much as Maura genuinely loved the Rizzoli matriarch, there wasn’t a much more certain way of making Jane shut down than for her mother to pry into her personal life. “How long ago did this happen?” she asked.
Jane shrugged. “Maybe like a year or two.”
Maura couldn’t help her surprise at the length of time elapsed in which Jane had never, to her very keen recollection, said a word. Jane looked over and must have seen it, because she chuckled. “I was more weirded out then, don’t worry. But then you noticed I was weirded out and started asking questions I didn’t want to answer, and that was pretty good incentive to get over it. So I did. And I just… never really thought about it again.”
“And that’s it?” Maura asked, heart inexplicably in her throat. “You got over it?”
She chanced a look at Jane, and found her looking at her with an expression she’d seen before but had never been able to accurately name: her eyes soft, her lips just slightly curved up, expression open and vulnerable to whatever Maura might do or say. Her breath caught. Fearless Jane. Fearless around you, Jane’s expression might as well be murmuring. An impossible concept, but Maura heard it anyway.
Jane proved that fearlessness a moment later, rolling smoothly from where she lay on her side facing Maura until she was braced above her and looking down. Maura looked up – as if she could have looked anywhere else. Jane was stunning in the low light, all angles and chiaroscuro that would made the old masters weep, the mass of her curls wrecking even more gloriously dramatic havoc on the shadows of her face and Maura’s.
“What are you doing?” Maura asked, voice just slightly breathless at the specter of Jane’s weight hovering above her, anchored through Jane’s knees on the outsides of Maura’s thighs. Jane’s arms held herself steady, of course, but Maura couldn’t help the way her eyes traced the muscles overland once again to her face.
She could place Jane’s current expression with absolute certainty, having seen it often over the last three years in the lab, in BRIC, in the morgue, in her own kitchen. This was Jane at work, taking in evidence and processing it at speeds faster than most humans, turning the puzzle around and around and around in her head until one piece after another clicked and she had a solution. It was the nature of the puzzle that was the mystery to Maura, who couldn’t say what stimuli had Jane so thoroughly engrossed.
“I don’t know,” Jane admitted at length. “It felt right.”
Maura didn’t reply lest her words disturb the process she was watching play out on Jane’s face. Trust Jane to let her body lead her while her mind caught up. Maura wondered what other impulses lay in the tension of Jane’s muscles, caught in the space between potential and kinetic.
“This is what’s been bothering you all day? Hope asking you that?” Jane asked, less for an answer or even confirmation than to voice it, giving tangible substance to one more piece of the puzzle.
“The assumption wasn’t what bothered me,” Maura said. She could almost visualize the way it was coming together in Jane’s mind, a succession of hypotheses tried and rejected and refined at blinding speed. Achingly aware of the last remaining space between their bodies as she was, she almost laughed at the observation that Jane was completely overlooking the two most substantive pieces to fit together.
Or perhaps Jane wasn’t overlooking anything. She bypassed the obvious question, eyes intent, and asked instead, “How long has it been bothering you?”
Maura considered carefully, but Jane’s eyes told her that now was not the time to start being deliberately obtuse. “A year or two,” she replied truthfully.
And there it was, in the subtle shift of Jane’s expression: epiphany. Not triumph, not fear, just Jane with her muscles trembling with unrealized intent, her already intense focus now hyperfixated on Maura.
“Maura,” she said, voice cracking. “I’m gonna need your help here.”
My help? The thought occurred distantly to Maura before she understood that forward momentum depended on her own input.
“Jane,” she murmured, laughing even as her hands curled around Jane’s arms and encouraged them to give way, the final pieces sliding together at long last. The momentum of it took them onto their sides and their lips met in the middle of it, garnering a surprised mmph! out of Jane while Maura’s head spun dizzyingly. Still, Jane’s arms drew her closer and Maura allowed her own hands to clutch at the soft fabric of Jane’s t-shirt, even more dizzyingly aware of the breasts underneath that pressed against hers.
“No, c’mere,” Jane mumbled when Maura pulled back a moment to breathe, cupping Maura’s face in her hands and refusing to be put off. How could Maura do anything but comply? She would have laughed again if she hadn’t been lightheaded and idly considering that asphyxiation by Jane Rizzoli’s kisses was an agreeable way to go.
“Thought you were a third date kind of girl,” she got out breathlessly when she could.
Jane laughed, incredulous, happy, equally breathless. “Why, Doctor Isles,” she said, and Maura was supremely glad she didn’t try the accent this time. “We’re on any date you want it to be.”