The first time Maura had gone over to the Rizzoli house for Christmas, she’d been astounded by how much noise only four people could make just by laughing and talking. Then the cousins had shown up with their parents and the noise had easily quadrupled. And then the neighbors joined in. There’d been almost fifty people coming and going into all rooms of the house, sitting on the stoop, talking on the back porch, and cooking in the kitchen. Well, the women had been in the kitchen. It had been a fascinating look into the gender roles of Italian-American families.

Maura had been surprised to find several presents under the tree with her name on it and a little guilty that she’d only brought the one for Jane. They hadn’t known one another long at that point and she’d only met Angela and Frank once before that time. She hadn’t realized just how much they’d liked her and wanted to include her until forced to open her ‘gag gifts’ with an ever-increasing blush.

The second time she’d been to the Rizzoli’s for Christmas, Maura had been prepared. She’d brought two gifts for each person, even though they’d mostly been guesses on which kind of gift cards would go with the gender neutral foodstuffs. While she’d known them over a year at that point, Maura hadn’t considered herself anywhere near an expert on the family. She’d also been more prepared to deal with the noise; she’d brought extra strength Tylenol and discreetly begun consuming them at the afternoon meal.

There’d been several Christmases between that first and now. Maura considered the Rizzoli family her own, even if Frank and Angela were newly divorced and the holiday celebration was far quieter than was their wont.

Jane had confided that, “Dad got most of the family in the divorce even though everyone blames him. Ma married into the family, you know? Everyone still loves her, it’s just… well, blood is blood. It sucks, but that’s life.”

Maura knew better than to bring up the subject at any time, let alone during the holiday itself. She might not be well-versed in social interaction but even she knew that much. At least she knew exactly what to get Angela and how to present it so the older woman wouldn’t refuse the weekend getaway.

Frankie was spending the day with his latest girlfriend. He’d opened presents with Jane and Angela that morning, before Maura had arrived.

“Not that we think this one will last any longer than the last,” Angela said, rolling her eyes. “Honestly, that boy is never going to settle down.”

Jane kissed the top of her mother’s head on the walk to the tree where Maura sat. She plopped down on the floor and said dryly, “He’s not exactly over the hill yet, Ma. Give him a break.”

Giving Jane a pointed look, Angela said, “I want grandkids! God knows I’ll never get them from you. I still have some hope from Frankie, even if it winds up being an accident. I’d be perfectly happy with three accidents.”

Maura stifled the truly amused smile that wanted to get out at the plaintive statement. “So, Angela, how are things going for you at the café?”

Jane shot her a dirty look, which Maura returned with wide eyed innocence. Jane snorted and reached for a present under the tree before shoving it at her.

“Oh, it’s going great! That new promotion I thought up is just really bringing in business!”

Maura opened the small box with its colorful wrapping as Angela continued to gush about her work. Jane might think working at the police café was trivial and even annoying, but Maura saw it for what it was; a stab at independence. That was something that she would support no matter how irritated Jane got with her for it. She knew that Jane just didn’t understand how difficult it was for a woman of Angela’s age and cultural background to break out of a ‘housewife’ mindset and embrace her potential.

Opening the box provoked her into gasping. Inside rested a delicate gold chain with a sapphire pendant. She looked over at Jane and said, “It’s lovely! I can’t believe you would get me something like this!”

Jane shrugged, but Maura knew she was pleased by the reaction from the faint air of smugness to her smile. “Who else am I gonna spend my money on? Ma?”

“Hey!”

“Sorry, Ma.”

Maura lifted the necklace from the box and said, “Put it on me.”

Jane took it and undid the tiny clasp, moving to her knees as Maura pulled her hair out of the way. There was some careful rearranging of arms as Jane threaded the necklace into place and her hands rested briefly, warm and firm, on Maura’s neck once it was settled. “There we go. All set.”

Maura took the next box from Jane with a bemused smile. “You must be really desperate to spend money this year.”

Jane smirked a bit and said, “Might be. Open it.”

This box was also small and she unwrapped it with the same care she’d done previously. This time there was a watch and a stunning one, at that; gold with tiny sapphire chips at each major point of the clock face. Somewhat aghast, Maura exclaimed, “Jane! Honestly, I can’t accept this.”

“You can and you will,” Jane said sternly.

Maura did her best not to shiver at the authority in the other woman’s voice. She’d learned to suppress her feelings for the other woman long ago. Jane might be bisexual, but she preferred men and hadn’t even dated a woman since they’d met. Well, not that Maura was aware of, at least. She knew that being a female detective was difficult enough that Jane didn’t want to add the gay ‘label’ to her life on top of everything else she dealt with.

The watch fit perfectly and looked just beautiful on her. Maura took the time to admire it on her wrist and then smiled widely at Jane. “It is beautiful.”

Jane smiled back at her and said, “One more.”

At least this one was an envelope so it hopefully wouldn't be anything too extravagant. Maura relaxed a bit and opened a truly sentimental card that made her throat tighten.

To the love of my life,

You’ve been there through it all, and lit my path with your goodness. I have no words to tell you what you mean to me, but hope you know. I cherish all out time together and pray for our hearts to remain intertwined forever.

Your loving husband

I love you,

Jane

Maura frowned and looked at Jane. “Husband?”

Jane rolled her eyes. “I couldn’t find something that said what I wanted it to say without that damn word in it. Hallmark doesn’t exactly make lesbian cards and I figured whiteout would just make it look tacky.”

And then it hit Maura. Her eyes widened and she whispered, “You love me?”

Jane licked at her lips, a nervous gesture that she never could get rid of, and nodded. “Yeah. I uh, I do. I was kinda hoping we could, you know, uh, get together. I mean. Crap. Maura, will you do me the honor of being my girlfriend?”

The feelings she’d stuffed down into the lockbox of her logic broke free and she threw her arms around Jane’s neck. Normally anything to do with romance went right over her head, but it didn't require a scientific background to know how good they were together. And she'd never been one for denying herself what she wanted, either. Holding tight, she said, “You didn’t have to buy me things to ask me out! Of course I will.”

Jane hugged her back, holding on just as tight. Then she said, “I could always return…”

“Don’t you dare!” Maura exclaimed, pulling back.

Jane grinned at her and it was an expression of evil glee. “I knew you were a traditional kinda girl. I bought chocolates and flowers in case the jewelry didn’t fly.”

Maura kissed her just to shut her up. It was sweet and remained close mouthed because she was all-too-aware of Angela beaming at them from the sofa. The hunger itching to touch Jane in a far more lascivious manner would have to wait until they were alone.

Breaking the kiss, Jane cupped her face and said softly, “You’re gorgeous, Maura Isles.”

Maura couldn’t help the blush that spread over her face. So much intensity directed at her caused her stomach to twist into an uncomfortable knot and she looked away. She should have expected it, though; Jane was not what anyone could call subtle or weak-willed.

“Oh stop embarrassing the poor girl!” Angela broke in. “You’d think you never asked a girl out before, for cryin’ out loud. Come on. Time for dinner. Help me in the kitchen, Maura, will you? Jane, call your brother and see if he’s going to make it home tonight.”

Jane rolled her eyes, but let Maura go and pulled out her cell.

Maura stood and yelped when Jane pinched her on the buttocks. She turned startled gaze on Jane who gave her an innocent look.

Angela ordered, “Jane! Behave yourself!”

“What? I didn’t do anything!”

“You’re asking for it, young lady.”

Maura rubbed her still-throbbing buttock as she followed Angela into the kitchen, in turn bemused and aroused by the proprietary marking. She hadn't thought Jane would be possessive, but it opened up several titillating possibilities.

As soon as they were out of sight of the living room, and Jane, Angela wrapped Maura up in a hug and then kissed her cheek. She beamed at Maura when she let go. “This is your official welcome to the family! I told her to do all this last year, but would she listen to her mother? No.”

Maura smiled and said, “Thank you, Angela. I must admit that, well, I’ve considered all of you my family for some years now.”

“Of course you were!” Angela exclaimed. “Of course! This is just, official-official, you know?”

Maura didn’t, not really, but had found it best to nod and smile at Angela in moments like this, so she did.

“Excellent! Now. Let me show you how to cook a ham. You can’t keep ordering in when you and Janie move in together. She needs home cooked meals and with the way she can't cook, you'll both starve.”

Maura watched the instruction on preparing the spiral ham avidly, but only with part of her mind. The rest of her was on Jane and their future together. As much as she'd always envisioned Jane in her life, it hadn't occurred to her that they might progress to a romantic stage. Happiness fluttered through her. Jane came up behind her, wrapping arms around her waist, and Maura leaned back against her.

Resting her hands on Jane's, surrounded by her while watching Angela chatter on loudly at the stove, Maura suddenly and truly knew what it was to have family.