DISCLAIMER: Rizzoli & Isles and its characters are the property of Tess Gerritsen, Janet Tamaro and TNT television network.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I really wanted to do so much more with this but ran out of time. A very special thanks to the very talented and generous Deb for taking time out of her Boxing Day to beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To darandkerry[at]yahoo.com

Family Traditions
By Ann


Christmas Eve Morning

Jane Rizzoli groaned softly and slowly blinked open her eyes. Squinting slightly, she stared at the far wall until a vision of Jo Polniaczek finally swam into view. Ah, she thought, I'm in my old bed at home. With a soft sigh, she closed her eyes and readied to burrow deeper into the covers, but a tiny puff of air blew across her ear and her eyes shot open as fast as a camera's shutter set at its highest speed. She tensed and took stock of her situation.

Someone was in bed with her. Someone was pressed tightly against her and had draped an arm over her waist and a leg over her knees. Someone continued to breathe heavily into her ear. Jane swallowed hard and looked down at the hand that rested on the mattress near her midsection. She knew that hand or, rather, she knew to whom the hand belonged.

She was in bed with Maura Isles wrapped snuggly around her. The makings of a cocky smile began to take shape but never fully formed as the rest of the picture took center stage. She and Maura were in her childhood bed, with Jo Polniaczek looking on, and her parents just down the hallway. Jane slammed her eyes shut and tried to remember exactly how she'd ended up in this predicament and how her dreams of sleeping with Maura – and not just sleeping – had gone so terribly wrong.

The day before…

A cold, brisk wind roared through the streets of a middle-class neighborhood, bending tree branches, whipping around the corners of cars and houses alike, and forcing residents to seek shelter indoors. And yet, in the backyard of one particular house, a figure, dressed in dark sweats and a hooded Parka, gripped a hand saw and shivered as a particularly hard gust darted past the side of the house and breached her three-walled haven. Determinedly fitting the jagged teeth of the saw against rough bark, the woman cursed her mother's hardheaded resolve that absolutely nothing would halt the family tradition of putting up Christmas decorations, not the fact that the tree should have already been put up and decorated weeks ago nor the Nor'easter that was barreling down on the city. With another curse, she held on tightly to the trunk of a way too big Christmas tree and began the back-and-forth sawing motion that would remove approximately 4 inches from its bottom. Leave it to her mother to pick out a tree that was taller than the ceiling of the den and then declare, multiple times and with equal emphasis, that it hadn't looked that tall on the Christmas tree lot.

"Jane, don't cut off too much!" Angela Rizzoli directed from her warm, comfortable spot inside the house, having only cracked the kitchen window high enough to allow her words to drift through. Jane shot a less than pleased look over her shoulder, and it turned almost sinister when she spied Frankie, Jr., standing next to their mother and grinning widely, a steaming cup of hot chocolate cradled in his non-slinged hand. She'd never forgive her brother for falling and dislocating his shoulder the day before while chasing a purse snatcher. Couldn't he have at least waited until after Christmas to have injured himself?

"I'm not, Ma; I measured, remember? You drew the chalk line yourself," Jane yelled back, although she did double check to make sure she was cutting on the solid white line. Pulling back on the saw, she gave it an extra hard push and let out a Grinch-like grunt. She was certain that the call her father had received when she'd first arrived had been a bogus one. He'd taken one look at the mammoth tree and hightailed it out of there as fast as he could. Forget the fact that he was the one responsible for picking out the tree but had found excuse after excuse for not having the time to go to the tree lot. Now, with her father off on a made-up plumbing emergency and her brother virtually useless, it was up to Jane to get the tree up and ready in time for Christmas. Her mother, of course, would take full credit.

"Well, you can never be too careful," Angela shot back and then took a quick step away from the window to avoid a particularly strong gust that had managed to push past the small slit between the window's sill and its frame. She bravely leaned forward again. "And be sure to shake the tree extra good before you bring it back inside! I don't want to have to sweep up needles again." She'd had quite the pile when she'd insisted that Jane try to make the tree fit in the corner without cutting off a single inch. Needles had gone everywhere when Jane had had to manhandle the trunk to free the top from its tightly wedged position against the ceiling.

Frankie's loud laughter was drowned out by the howl of the wind and the sound of overly aggressive sawing.

"Jeez, Jane, did you have to bring all that sawdust in here with you?" Angela groused as she gripped her broom and dustpan and readied to sweep up the trail of dust that had fallen from Jane's pants with every step the cursing, grunting, tree-dragging woman had taken.

"I didn't bring all of it inside; I left plenty on the ground outside," Jane said sarcastically as she struggled to take another step. Her hands were frozen solid and her feet felt like blocks of ice. She had no idea how she was able to grip the tree.

"Don't be sassy; it's Christmas," Angela said as she leaned over to push a small pile of dirt into her dustpan with a broom that had seen better days. "Frankie!" she yelled to her son who was stretched out on the couch watching Jane struggle with the tree. "You can get me a new broom for Christmas."

Jane went completely still, the tree hovering in mid-air over the Christmas tree stand. "A broom?" she actually snorted, although more from exertion of holding up the tree than displeasure at hearing her mother's suggestion of a gift Frankie could get her. "You tell me to buy you a new mixer and Frankie gets a broom?" She let go of the tree and, thankfully, it fell straight into the center of the tree stand. She reached out to steady it before it could tilt to either side.

"Well, you make more money than he does," Angela volleyed back. "Besides, that mixer is as old as you are."

Jane's jaw dropped and she readied to argue that her salary should have absolutely no bearing on the matter. And just because she happened to be born the same year Angela received her last mixer didn't mean that she was responsible for its replacement, either. "Ma," she started but stopped abruptly when a loud knock came from the vicinity of the front door. She tilted her head and frowned. "What idiot would dare get out on a day like today?" she asked as she relaxed her grip on the tree.

"I'll get it," Angela volunteered just in case Jane had planned to let go of the tree, run to the door, open it, and run back to the tree before it could fall. Placing her broom against the wall, Angela wiped her hands on her apron, crossed to the front door and turned the lock without a second's hesitation.

"Ma!" Jane protested her mother's nonchalance at throwing back the lock. "Don't just unlock the door when you have no idea who's on the other side. Use the peephole!" She gripped the tree tighter, as if she planned to use it as a weapon should the visitor be an intruder instead of someone they knew.

Angela just shook her head and opened the door, allowing a gust of wind and a bundled-up figure to sweep inside. Angela quickly closed the door and turned to attend to her visitor. "Whoa, maybe you shouldn't have gotten out in this weather."

"I wanted to help," came the muffled reply and Jane cocked her head. That voice sounded vaguely familiar. She watched interestedly as a heavy black hood and coat were removed to reveal the back of the newcomer. There was a second, more lightweight jacket covering the person, but what caught Jane's eye was the sleek black material that poked out past the coat's collar and fit snugly over the top of the visitor's head. She'd definitely seen that outfit before.

"Maura?" she asked, craning her neck around the branches of the tree to get a better view. The visitor turned toward Jane and smiled.

"Hey, Jane," Maura said as she shucked off her coat to reveal the rest of her outfit. She ran her hands down its sleek sides. "I found another use for my softball uniform. It's very wind resistant."

Angela's eyes almost bulged out of her head. "Um," she started and pasted on a half-smile. "Thanks so much for coming to help, Maura," she said truthfully, although her gaze was locked on the younger woman's strange clothing. "And your outfit is… um… very… um, festive." She gestured to the uniform and then shot a look over at Jane, her eyes pleading for help. Maura looked like a red and black elf. Her daughter just sighed and shook her head.

"Please tell me you brought along some clothes to change into," Jane begged pitifully. There was no way she could spend the afternoon – much less a single second – with Maura dressed in that form-fitting, aerodynamic or ergo dynamic or whatever the hell the body suit was called. It fit the other woman like a glove and showcased every flattering attribute Maura had, which was basically everything from her head to her toes.

"Oh," Maura said, looking down at her empty hands. "I did bring something but I left it in the car." She reached for the doorknob. "I'll just run out and get my bag."

"No!" Jane yelled, causing Angela to jump and Maura to furrow her brow. "I mean, I'll get it." She glanced at the tree and then back at Maura. She forced a smile. "If you'll switch places with me, I'll run out and get your bag. I need to brush this sawdust off of me anyway." There was no way in hell she was going to let Maura rush out in that weather wearing just her softball uniform. Jane was absolutely certain Maura would be sporting two new and very prominent and perky attributes when she came back inside and that was something Jane would never survive.

Maura just shrugged and started toward her friend. "Okay," she agreed readily, figuring that her sleeves would protect her from getting stuck by the tree's needles. She slid in beside Jane and carefully slipped her hand above and below her friend's. "I've got it."

Jane very slowly released her grip and then eased backward. Satisfied that Maura did indeed have a hold on the Christmas tree, she started for the door, slowing long enough to pop Frankie on the back of the head as she walked past the couch, the direct hit pulling her brother's attention from Maura's firm backside to the stinging pain.

"Ow, what did you do that for?"

Jane's glare was all the answer he needed as Frankie suddenly found something far less interesting to focus on.

"You've got too many ornaments on this side," Angela complained as she pointed toward the overly decorated side in question with a flour-coated finger. She'd been forced to abandon her job of official ornament placer to start on her panettone for their Christmas Eve breakfast. She hated to leave the job to Jane, but Christmas Eve simply wasn't Christmas Eve without Grandma Rizzoli's panettone.

"I'm not done yet," Jane replied testily, having tired long ago of following her mother's instructions of walking around the tree at least twice to find the perfect spot before placing a new ornament on the tree. She'd finally just grabbed a box and unloaded the ornaments on the closest branches.

Angela dismissed Jane's poor excuse. "Look at Maura; she's taking her time." She smiled at the young woman and nodded her approval.

"Balance is important," Maura said as she carefully placed a silver ball equidistant from a gold one and a white one. "Decorations that are symmetrical have an optimal effect."

Angela's smile grew. "See, Jane, they have an optimal effect." She watched her daughter wedge a crystal angel between a red Santa Claus and a brown reindeer. It reminded her of the neighbors down the street who had placed Santa Claus right next to the three wise men and positioned him to stare down at the baby Jesus. They'd even situated Rudolph in the middle of the livestock. "Jane, I think it's time you finally learned how to make Grandma Rizzoli's panettone. Maura can finish up the tree; can't you, Maura?" she asked sweetly, too sweetly in Jane's opinion.

Jane looked down at Frosty the Snowman and frowned. She knew she was being manipulated but wasn't really sure that she minded. It was common knowledge that Jane hated to decorate, but it was also a well known fact that she wasn't exactly fond of cooking, either. A quick glance at the boxes and boxes of icicles made up her mind. "Alright," she agreed, preferring to put on an apron than stand in front of a tree and place icicles – one friggin' one at a time – on the branches. Putting Frosty back into the box, she looked over at the couch and grinned wickedly. "Frankie can help with the icicles."

"That's a wonderful idea, Jane," Angela agreed, although she'd agree to almost anything if it would get Jane away from the tree. Besides, she trusted Maura to make sure Frankie, Jr. didn't just grab a handful of icicles and toss them up in the air, letting them land where they may, a trick Jane had taught him when they were kids. "You get the eggs and butter and I'll finish measuring the rest. By the time we finish preparing the bread, Maura and Frankie will be done decorating the tree." She smiled widely. "Then we can stand around the tree and sing Christmas carols."

Jane groaned under her breath and followed her mother into the kitchen. Her mother really loved to sing. It was just too bad the older Rizzoli couldn't carry a tune.

Christmas Eve Morning – Jane's Bed

Jane chuckled softly at the memory of Maura and her mother attempting to sing a duet of Oh Christmas Tree. Angela had met her match. Maura's singing was just as awful. She and Frankie had laughed so hard they'd almost split a gut and, when her father had come in, he'd almost turned right around and left, but Jane and Frankie had dragged him back inside. The case of wine he'd carried with him had been a welcomed sight.

"Hmm…" Maura muttered against Jane's ear. She tightened her hold and snuggled even closer, close enough for Jane to feel all of Maura. Jane swallowed hard.

"Something smells good," Maura whispered and moved her hand to rest just under Jane's breastbone. Jane shivered and was suddenly very grateful that she'd chosen an oversized jersey to sleep in the night before.

"Panettone," she whispered. "It's a Rizzoli tradition to have it for breakfast on Christmas Eve."

Maura raised her hand to stifle a yawn, and Jane took advantage of the move to ease onto her back. She looked up into sleepy eyes and smiled nervously.

"Um, I don't exactly remember how we ended up in bed," she admitted softly. She took comfort in the fact that they were mostly clothed. If she ever did sleep with Maura – the not sleeping part – she wanted to remember every single detail.

"I'm surprised you can function this morning," Maura teased lightly. "You and your father drank quite a bit of wine last night."

"I don't usually get a hangover when I drink wine," Jane said. She did, however, suffer bits of memory loss the next morning, which explained why she couldn't remember the latter part of the evening.

"Oh, so you remember the mistletoe then," Maura said, her cheeks turning a light shade of pink. She wet her lips in memory.

"Mistletoe?" Jane's voice scaled an octave. "Mistletoe, mistletoe?" she asked for confirmation. Her eyes tracked to Maura's tongue and the path it was currently taking across her lip.

"Yes, mistletoe. Your mother insisted that your father hang it above the door and then kiss her. She said it was a family tradition," Maura explained, omitting the rest of Angela's statement about the tradition.

Jane relaxed at the mention of her parents kissing under the mistletoe. She'd thought Maura had been talking about the two of them. "Yeah, I think it's something my mother made up just to get my father to kiss her in front of us kids." She laughed. "She said that one day we'd find our one true love and do the same in front of them."

Maura's face turned crimson.

"What?" Jane asked. "Was it one of those long, deep kisses?" She sighed. "They love to try to embarrass us."

Maura just shook her head. "No, it was just a regular kiss." She cleared her throat and blurted, "Ours was one of those long, deep kisses."

"Ours?" Jane sat straight up and fell back against the headboard.

"Yes, ours," Maura affirmed quietly. She'd hoped Jane would have remembered.

"You and me?" Jane asked wide-eyed. She'd kissed Maura and hadn't remembered?

"Yes, you and me," Maura said, not able to keep the hurt out of her voice.

"Oh, Maura, I'm so sorry," Jane replied as she pulled the other woman against her. "I didn't mean to embarrass you."

Maura looked up into sad dark eyes. Reaching up, she cupped Jane's cheek in her palm. "You didn't embarrass me, Jane. I wanted you to kiss me."

"You did?" Jane asked hopefully.

"Yes," Maura answered simply and honestly.

"So, you wouldn't mind if I were to kiss you again?"

Maura smiled gently. "No, Jane, I wouldn't mind at all."

Closing her eyes, Jane pressed her lips against Maura's and, slowly, ever so slowly, she deepened the kiss, committing every touch and taste to memory. Later, she'd kiss Maura again under the mistletoe and in front of Frankie and her parents.

After all, Rizzoli family traditions were sacred; and Maura Isles was her one true love.

The End

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