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The skeleton in the closet

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"Thank you for coming in," Maura said, leading Hope to the morgue. "It's a bit of a puzzle, even for me."

"You know I'm always happy to consult," Hope said, trying to sound professional. "And even happier to have an excuse to see you." Maura's head tilted sideways to acknowledge the sentiment, but she didn't respond verbally.

"We've stripped the bones, but I'm not able to match this in our tool database, and I've run out of ideas. She's still a Jane Doe..." Maura trailed off, hand hovering over the femur she'd reexamined multiple times over the last week. "No hits on the DNA. We've asked for help from other countries, and some have agreed to share their databases... but if we could interpret these..." Maura's gloved hand drifted again over the gouges. Hope's hand lifted the bone respectfully, taking it from the table and using the microscope.

'I don't know what you expect me to find that you haven't already seen," Hope said finally. "I know you're brilliant."

"But this is your area of expertise. Identifying victims."

"Bones, not so much. You've seen the striations, of course, and the jagged edge here?" Maura nodded reluctantly. "And the honeycombing suggestive of early onset osteoarthritis?" Maura nodded again. Hope pulled away from the microscope with a sigh. "You can send me the scans, but I don't think I can help you beyond that. Although..." Hope trailed off and pulled out here phone. "Doctor Brennan? Yes, Hope Martin. I'm in Boston doing a consult on a case... yes, definitely. I can have scans sent through once BPD clears them. The bones?" Hope looked at Maura, who shook her head. They couldn't be released to another jurisdiction, and she had no idea who... Doctor Brennan... was. Unless... unless she was THAT Doctor Brennan, Doctor Temperance Brennan, the forensic anthropologist who spent time in war-torn countries identifying victims of genocide. The Doctor Brennan who had written a number of books that Maura had read, and admired. The phone was handed to her and she scrambled to keep up.

"Yes, striations. No matches in the DNA or tool databases yet. Yes, tomorrow would be fine." Maura handed the phone back and Hope signed off with a smile.

"I have to get back to the clinic, but I'll come back to introduce you to Brennan." Hope looked at Maura for a long moment. "She reminds me of you, a little. Or you remind me of her. Just a little. I used to pretend... out there... that I had a daughter like her." Maura felt a sharp sting of jealousy, one she had felt for Cailin. And Doctor Brennan was so accomplished, such a famous and respected doctor in her field.

"I'd... thank you," Maura said, acting like her world, her complicated family hadn't just collapsed around her. Hope kissed her cheek, and Maura accepted the affection stoically, mind still whirling. Jane came in as Hope was leaving, stepping forward to Maura, able to sense something awry.

---

Susie saw Doctor Martin leaving the morgue and flinched. That woman never meant good news. She looked through the window to check on Doctor Isles.

Detective Rizzoli (senior) had her forehead pressed against Doctor Isles', her hands on the sides of Doctor Isles' neck and face, whispering something. Doctor Isles' arms were wrapped around herself, and when Detective Rizzoli (senior) pulled away, Doctor Isles nodded miserably. Detective Rizzoli (senior) looked up and saw Susie watching, coming into the lab a moment later after a reassuring kiss to Doctor Isles' temple.

"Her care and comfort are in your hands until I get back, ok?" Detective Rizzoli (senior) said, storming away. Susie swallowed and nodded, even though Detective Rizzoli (senior) was already gone.

---

Doctor Isles didn't look up when Susie came in. She was looking dispassionately at the body on the table, sighing every time she looked over at the scalpels. Susie slid her gloves on, stepped next to Doctor Isles.

"What do you need?" Susie asked, crisp and business-like.

"Jane," Doctor Isles said. Susie slid a bracing arm over Doctor Isles' shoulders.

"For the autopsy," Susie clarified.

"Oh. Then..." Doctor Isles focused "the tweezers. There is foreign matter in the wound."

Susie nodded and fetched the tweezers. She was no Detective Jane Rizzoli but when it came to the care and comfort of Doctor Maura Isles, she had a few tricks of her own up her scrub sleeves.

---

Doctor Brennan was met in the precinct lobby by two tall, dark, attractive detectives. They were clearly related, and the female one was assessing her with the intensity Booth reserved for someone he perceived as a threat.

"Doctor Brennan?" The male one asked, and she nodded, took the card. "Man, I can't believe you came all the way out here, I've read all your books," he gushed, and was cut short by a boot to the ankle.

"Detective Jane Rizzoli," Jane said, delivering a firm, aggressive handshake. "And Detective Frank Rizzoli."

"I'm here to see the bones," Brennan told them, glancing between them.

"Right this way," Jane said, leading her to the elevator. "Hope's already down there." The door closed, and Jane clasped her hands, aware that Brennan's eyes had been drawn to them. "Yeah, I'm that Rizzoli," she said finally, holding her hands out, turning them over.

"You were very fortunate," Brennan said. "I reviewed the cases. The reconstructive surgery appears to have restored the majority of your function. I'd love to see your x-rays sometime."

"Ask Maura," Jane grumbled, sticking her arm in the elevator door as it opened, gesturing Brennan to exit first.

---

"Tempe," Hope said, stepping forward and hugging Brennan, who normally stiffened on physical contact but allowed this gesture of affection from her old mentor. Jane put an arm over Maura's shoulders, whispered something in her ear, Maura turning her head to rest her forehead against Jane's cheek for a moment.

"Hope, it's lovely to see you. If I'd known you were so close I'd..."

"You'd have still worked eighty hours a week, and so would I, and neither of us would have made the time," Hope said, smoothing over the awkwardness. "Oh, and this is Doctor Maura Isles. I believe you spoke on the phone."

Brennan eyed the other woman, then Hope, then Maura again.

"You're related," Brennan said hollowly. "But Cailin would be... twenty, at most, now. And you never mentioned... but the zygomatic arch... too similar to share anything but a first generation ancestry."

"Ah, yes. I should have known..." Hope slid an arm around Maura. "I'd like you to meet my biological daughter Doctor Maura Isles."

"You never mentioned... you only had... Cailin..."

"Cailin is here - she's fine - she's studying at BCU. I... it's going to sound strange, but I didn't know about Maura until recently. I was told... I was told something that would keep us both safe."

Brennan regained her composure.

"It's not my business." She looked them up and down again. "I'm pleased you..."

"So am I," Hope said. "Now, you're here to see the bones?"

"Yes please," Brennan said, perking up from whatever shock she'd had earlier.

---

"Any ideas?" Jane asked, hovering over Brennan's shoulder. She turned from the microscope and met Jane's gaze with a long, steady gaze.

"You could get out of my personal space, that's an idea," Brennan said. Jane backed away, gesturing to Maura, who shrugged.

"Uh, I'm going to the lab, To check om that thing Susie was checking. The fibers, for our other case," Jane said, patting Maura on the way past.

"Your partner is overprotective." Brennan commented. "Mine is too."

"I'm a Medical Examiner, I don't have a partner."

"I'm a forensic anthropologist, neither do I. Not officially."

"We're just friends. Colleagues too."

"Oh, I work with my best friend too." Brennan looked up again. "She's a bisexual, in case you thought I was judging you based on sexuality. Well, she doesn't define herself that way. She's not into labels, and I like to have everything clearly defined."

Maura nodded ruefully. "Me too." She looked at the bone she was slicing samples off for analysis. "Do you think it helps? Not having biological family, I mean."

"You've read my books," Brennan said, sounding pleased. "And you have family."

"I didn't. Not when I needed it. It always felt..."

"You were adopted. I was in foster," Brennan pointed out, and Maura nodded.

"And I'm not complaining, just positing a theory based on genetic and familial relations in allowing people like us to do work like this without..."

"The idea has merit," Brennan supposed. "I've never seen anything like this."

'What was it like, working with her?" Maura asked, and Brennan looked up again, saw the look of abject longing on Maura's face.

"She's an exceptional doctor," Brennan said. "And she was very comforting." She saw the pout on Maura's face as she brought over more samples.

"Do you need the rest of the bones?" Maura asked, noticing how Brennan responded to the last word. "Do they call you Bones?" Maura asked, aghast.

"Well, sometimes. Yes. Surely they've given you a nickname here too?"

"Queen of the Dead."

"Royalty. I should be so lucky."

"I'm sure they mean it kindly," Maura said, and Brennan laughed.

"Sometimes, sure." She eyed Maura, her sleek dress under the lab coat, looked down at her steelcap boots and jeans, singlet under hers. "I could take you in a fight," she remarked, aware that Hope was watching them from the lab with Jane.

"I don't particularly want to fight you, but in a fair fight I suppose you could. You've spent more time in undeveloped countries than me, and you've needed to defend yourself more often. But it wouldn't be a fair fight, because you haven't met my family."

"I met your mother," Brennan pointed out.

"Did you not wonder why she didn't mention my father? Patrick Doyle? Ring a bell?"

"Oh." Brennan looked up again. "Plus your girlfriend looks ready to kick the shit out of me if I so much as look at you wrong."

"She's not..."

"The physical affection she showed to you on her arrival to the basement, coupled with the way she's glaring at me lead me to a conclusion to which I wouldn't normally leap." Brennan sighed and shook her head. "Do you find, the more you work with investigators, the more the structural integrity of your core values of scientific methodology deteriorates."

"Yes," Maura agreed fervently, and they laughed together for a moment.

"It's human teeth. They left this impression. I've seen it before. You can take an indent, but whoever it is, it will be a long shot. The dental health of the American public is substandard, and most citizens haven't seen a dentist in decades."

"Amazing. I'd never have considered it."

"That's what I'm here for." Brennan gave a stilted smile. "I guess I'll head back to DC."

"You're welcome to stay for dinner," Maura offered. "It's getting late, and you and Hope must have a lot to catch up on."

Brennan glanced at her watch, shrugged her lab coat off.

"I have come all this way, and I haven't seen her for a few years. I suppose dinner would be... nice." Maura nodded uncertainly, had Susie come in to take a mould of the bite marks.

---

Cailin squealed with delight when she saw Brennan, throwing her arms around her, and once again Maura felt a stab of jealousy. They were so similar, yet so different, and Maura's family was so... familiar with her, in a way they weren't with Maura. But then Angela's arm was over one shoulder, and Jane's was wrapping around her waist, and Maura knew she had family of her own.

---

Maura took Brennan to the airport the next day.

"Your family is nice," Brennan said. "Thank you for letting me work on your case."

"Thank you for flying over to help. Your expertise was invaluable."

"What you said, yesterday... about family.... about making it easier to work with dead people, where most people are squeamish..." Brennan shrugged. "I have family now. I have a family. It doesn't look like yours."

"Trust me, no one's does," Maura laughed.

"But you have one. You have more than one. You made your own. And I think that's what I'm doing too. And it does make it harder, because sometimes the bodies I see... I see parts of people I love in them. I care too much, and I didn't used to."

"I didn't used to either," Maura said. "But the Rizzolis cracked me open like a sternum, and made their way into my chest. It hurts, to feel. But it's better than not feeling." Maura sighed. "I'm jealous you got to spend time with Hope, had her as a mentor."

"And I'm jealous that she's yours. That she found you. That she doesn't need me."

"Tempe," Maura said. "Bones. She still needs you. I've been to her house. She has every book you ever wrote in pride of place."

"She does?"

"She's scared too," Maura said. "We don't... we don't connect easily. But you're in her mind, and her heart. Whatever you two did over there, whatever people you helped, she was one of them. We're born into families, but we're adults. We can make our own. We can find our own."

"She must have missed you," Brennan said. It hurt a little to say, to realise that when Hope had been with her, she'd been thinking of a baby, of a daughter she'd never met, around the same age. Superimposed on top of Brennan, like she'd never really seen her, just the ghost of a daughter she'd lost. Like Hope had never cared about her at all, just the memories she'd wanted to make with her own biological child.

"I have three mothers," Maura said. "Kind of. I have enough, anyway. If you ever find yourself at a loose end for a Christmas or a weekend..."

"I'll give her a call," Brennan said, fingering the pouch Hope had given her; it was a small woolen toy Brennan used to make for children in the crisis centers. Hope had looked like it had been painful to part with it, and Brennan almost wanted to shove it back at Maura, to tell her to take it back. But she didn't. She slipped off her big, clunky necklace and placed it in Maura's hand. "It'll be a nightmare to get through security," Brennan said, almost carelessly, and Maura nodded seriously. "It wasn't unpleasant to meet you," Brennan said stiffly, and Maura nodded seriously again. They shook hands, but Maura pulled Brennan in close, and while Brennan didn't relish physical contact, she understood Maura in ways she'd never known she could relate to someone to. They were two sides of the same coin; a mirror image. She couldn't hate Maura or Hope for finding each other after so long apart, and it made her want to find her own mother even harder.

"It was lovely to meet you," Maura said. "Thank you for sharing your memories of Hope with me. I appreciate the trust it must have taken to open up like that."

"You're her daughter," Brennan said, close to tears. "Thank you for letting me look at your bones."

"Any time," Maura said, and Brennan turned and walked through the gate. She turned once, to see Jane stepping forward from where she'd been hanging back, wrapping her arms around Maura, who turned into the embrace. She knew that on the other end, Angela would hold her like that too, that her own found family would welcome her with annoying non-sequitors and nonsense like she'd been away for weeks instead of only a little more than a day. She shook her head, looking forward to going home, and surprised that Jefferson felt like home to her.

After all, that's where her family was.