Maura's house was well lit, at least on the ground floor, and the kitchen windows were steamed to soften the view of whatever was taking place inside. Coming up the walk, one could smell tantalizing, mouth-watering fragrances. As the door opened, Maura called above the sound of sizzling, "I hope you brought Jo Friday with you. I'm making steak Diane, and there'll be leftovers." She was in her element now, more self-assured now that she was in her own space.

The music playing throughout the house on her state-of-the-art sound system was Prince, her go-to, feelgood music for when she wanted to feel normal. She'd once confided in Jane that not only did she enjoy the music, in a modern sort of way, but she felt that he had a God-given gift for filthy lyrics, and she loved listening to the way he said them. The table was already set with her second-best set of china, the good silver, and the crystal stemware that she preferred for occasions that didn't merit the very best. It was a message, but one that could have been read in several ways.

Maura came out of the kitchen long enough to get a kiss hello, and stuck around to admire the way Jane looked in that suit. "Oh, my word," she said, as she usually did whenever Jane wore it. "You know, I could just not answer the door when they get here. As spectacular as that suit looks on you, I bet it would look even better scattered from here to the bedroom." She'd been working on that one, awaiting just the right chance to use it. She didn't look at all shabby, either, in her shantung silk dress, cashmere shrug, and the pearls she'd once mentioned had come to her from her mother's mother. The outfit was barely covered at all in her apron, and for once, she wasn't wearing the no-nonsense chef's apron, nor even her surgical scrubs. Instead, it was a lacy, frilly thing of ruffled organza, just the sort of apron that was designed to say, I am in charge of this household. This is my cloak of office. You eat my bounty, thanks to my skill in preparing it. An apron like this one didn't protect her clothing at all, but rather, gave the appearance almost of lingerie. She knew Jane liked it; had picked it out on purpose. "Or we could leave the door unlocked and stay right here. I never did have the quintessential adolescent experience of being walked in on, in flagrante. What do you say?"

Jane wrapped her arms around Maura's waist, pulling her close but making sure to keep the small woman from rubbing against the gun and badge hidden underneath her suit jacket. "I'd say I've had that experience, and it's not as much fun when it's happening as it is funny to tell it later." She kissed the blonde again. "I'd also say that I see you've been working on your pickup lines, and I'm very tempted to take you up on the offer." She stole another kiss as she ran her fingers down the side frill of the apron. "I'd also say that we should probably just do this thing with your parents and move on. It's not going to be any easier later." She stepped back, but kept her hands on Maura's hips. "So, you think I look okay? I know you bought the suit… and the shoes… but I'm always worried that I'll get something wrong with the jewelry or whatever. Plus, I'm never comfortable in this color for some reason." She continued to ask for reassurance with her eyes as she dropped her hands to her sides.

"Suit yourself," Maura replied with would-be breeziness, pressing back in for one more fervent embrace even as the timer dinged to tell her the vegetables were roasted sufficiently and now the oven was on 'keep warm' mode. "And yes, you look fantastic. At least, you look like my fantasies. Well chosen earrings, necklace from your grandmother. You did something new with your hair, too - I like it when I can see your neck. Hm, what's this?" she added, slipping her hands beneath the jacket. "Why, Detective, is that a gun in your holster, or are you just pleased to see me?" Another pickup line, but at least it was a longstanding joke that Jane always came prepared for a multitude of possibilities. "Let's hope you won't need that. Or the cuffs that I know you also brought."

"I always knew you were a handcuff girl deep down." Jane grinned. "Besides, you know I'm on duty tonight." She straightened her jacket, "And your place doesn't have a secured location for my piece. So, I kind of have to wear it."

Maura took another long look over Jane's suit and the physique that it displayed so well. "I don't need cuffs," she said with a wink, "to have you at my mercy. Nor do you need them to have me at yours."

Other timers began to ding and beep, and with reluctance, Maura stepped back again towards the kitchen. "My parents will be here in five minutes, if they're coming at all," she mentioned. "I doubt they'll need it, but I readied the guest room for them in case they drink, because I'm fairly certain that they'll be giving Mr. Charles the night off. They typically do, whenever they go to any place that doesn't have other domestics for him to visit."

Jane nodded her understanding as she followed Maura into the kitchen. "They'll come, and we'll be ready."

As if it were timed, the doorbell rang.

"Do you want me to get it?" Jane waited, wanting to do whatever would make Maura's life easiest.

Maura startled, but took a deep breath and calmed herself. "N... Yes, actually. If you open the door, then they get to see you welcoming them, and I'll get the chance to go turn off my kid music. They don't enjoy Prince." She trotted back to the living room to switch to something classical and neutral, something with lots of cello, subdued enough to barely provide undercurrent rather than impeding conversation.

The detective's posture straightened. She held herself with a confidence she did not actually possess, but she was determined to be in control with Maura tonight and not allow Maura's mother to control the situation. If her years of training on the force had taught her anything, it was that sometimes exuding confidence even when you do not actually have it will help to secure an otherwise shaky situation.

With a small smile gracing her lips, she opened the door. "Dr. and Mrs. Isles, please come in. We're delighted you could come tonight." She stepped aside to allow the older couple to enter. Mentally, she checked herself to make certain everything she said was grammatically correct and properly spoken. Tonight she would be on full alert.

Dr. Isles entered, hand at the small of his wife's back. He offered another handshake, this one as warm as the one at the restaurant earlier that day. "Lovely to see you again, my dear. Call me Arthur," he replied, eyes sincere and a little amused. He didn't miss the implication of Jane answering the door, demonstrating the fact that she was at home here, and a co-hostess with his daughter. He winked on his way past; he was already on her side. Mrs. Isles had regained quite a bit of equanimity, to the point that, if they hadn't seen how she reacted to the surprise at lunch, one might not have realized she wasn't entirely charmed. "Good evening, Detective Rizzoli. Am I pronouncing that correctly?" She removed her wrap and held it out as if uncertain what to do with it, without someone coming to take it from her.

Just then, Maura entered, hair freshly brushed, and plucked the wrap out of her mother's waiting hand. "Good evening, Mother, Daddy. Let me take that; the coat closet is right here. You have perfect timing, as usual. The food's ready, as of two minutes ago. Shall we go into the dining room so I can serve?" She hung the wrap and closed the closet door, then mentioned, "Watch out for Bass. I believe he's hiding in the bedroom right now, but in case he's out, I don't want anyone to trip."

Without rushing, Maura's parents followed her into the dining room, not as large as the one they had at home, but then, she didn't have large and lavish dinner parties very often. Charlotte Isles glanced over the place settings and smiled in the way that suggested she wasn't actually all that happy. "That isn't your grandmother's china," she mentioned as she started to sit at the head of the table, then was nudged to a side seat by Arthur. "Don't tell me you broke it."

Maura's eyes closed as she calmed herself, then smiled with a bit more genuineness. "No, Mother, I haven't broken Gram's china set. I save that for holidays. I thought you might prefer to know how I live when it isn't a special occasion. After all, it's not like you're here for an official inspection." Behind her, Arthur listened to the explanation with subtle delight before lifting a finger to gently chide Maura. She winked back at him: message sent. She would not behave as if she needed their approval or permission, not with her dishes and not with anything else.

"I see." Mrs. Isles waited for her husband to pull out the chair. He graciously did so, helping her settle into the place he had so artfully guided her to a moment before. "I must say, darling, I'm surprised you still have that turtle. I thought you would have sent him to a reserve by now."

"Tortoise." It was out of Jane's mouth before she could stop herself, and it was only by the grace of years of training that her face did not show the sudden surprise she felt.

"Tortoise," Maura said simultaneously with Jane.

"Bass is a tortoise." The brunette gave Maura an apologetic look before clearing her throat and pushing ahead. "Arthur, why don't you don't you have a seat," she motioned to the chair across from his wife, but not at the head of the table, "Maura, let me help you with dinner… please." Her eyes were pleading with the doctor not to force her into any private time with Maura's parents.

Maura echoed her father's smile of amusement as she leaned over each parent to hug their shoulders as they sat. The water glasses were already filled. "Thank you, Jane, I would appreciate that," she answered, giving Jane an easy way out. "Also, if either of you need to freshen up, there's a powder room just out that doorway and down the hall to the left."


Both sat at the table for a moment, just for the sake of form, before Charlotte got up to go and wash her hands first. Arthur stood up and walked over to the china hutch, where the rest of the china and stemware were on display, to look over the various sets. His wife's mother's favorite set held pride of place on the upper shelves, he was glad to see, while his mother's set were - yes, he found them - on the lower shelves, boxed in satin china storage boxes. In fact, just the way he'd kept them all throughout his marriage, until Maura was of age to receive them. No doubt she did use them, when the occasion warranted, just as he had done.

As Charlotte returned, Arthur closed the hutch doors and took his turn at the sink, while Charlotte sat down and surveyed the decor. The place was smaller than she'd anticipated, but then again, Maura hadn't married or had children yet. Given that, this house was suitable, she felt, for a single woman who was taking her time finding a husband. What was she doing with that detective person? Playing house, just like when she was a little girl? Did they plan to buy houses next to one another, each having twins who would marry one another someday? Charlotte didn't mind that notion, though she wondered whether a city employee would be able to afford either of the houses next door to Maura's. Perhaps she had family money; at least she was dressed better than she'd been this afternoon. Then again, one wouldn't want to wear a proper Armani suit to work when one worked in such prosaic surroundings, she supposed. In fact, Charlotte had already forgiven Jane for wearing clothes off the rack during the work day. After all, they had come from a good rack at a good store.


In the kitchen, Maura put the salad into the salad bowl. "My parents will think this is an informal way of serving," she mentioned apologetically, "because I'm bringing it myself, and because I'll only be clearing plates once between the salad and main course, and once between main course and dessert. There shouldn't be any problem with utensils, but if you get confused, just go slow and watch me, okay? They... might be a little bit judgmental, but I really believe that you'll win them both over. My father already seems to think you hung the moon just because you didn't become flustered this afternoon."

Jane leaned against the sink as Maura pulled things together. "Well, that's something, I guess." She sighed heavily. "Oh God, Maura, I'm sorry. The thing about Bass was out of my mouth before I could stop it. I don't know what came over me. I can't believe I corrected your mother like that." She closed her eyes as she ran a hand over her face. "Maybe I should fake an emergency call? I mean, I might actually make this worse." The brunette let out a groan. "This is more stressful than dealing with Hoyt." She sighed. "Your pop…erm… father, did you notice he didn't let your mother sit at the head of the table?"

Maura paused in her preparations, stood perfectly still for a moment, then gave vent to a little giggle as she resumed stirring together the salad dressing. "Actually, it was perfect. She knows full well what species Bass is. She's the one who gave him to me. She just wanted to see if you knew, and you did. My father loved it, too… Enough that he acknowledged the point by seating them both at the sides. I'd actually assumed that, as usual, they'd take the head and foot of the table. Apparently we've earned our adulthood stripes now. You did it just right, too. Jane, don't worry. At the very worst, after this night is over, we'll have had nothing to say to one another, so there'll be no arguments. If we do get into anything, it'll be things that need saying, and that will be healthy. If you feel you need to go, I won't stop you, but I really do want them to know that they're visiting us. They need to see us together in our space, if they're really going to transition to thinking of us as a unit. In fact, if you'd like to sit at the head of the table, do so. It will let them know where you stand with me, and it will also let me sit closer to the kitchen so I can fetch the main course more easily when it's time."

She led the way back to the dining room, salad bowl in hand, nodding towards the serving tongs and the bottle of wine for Jane to bring.

"Head of the table?" Jane mumbled to herself as she picked up bottle and tongs. "Oh man, I don't know about this. Ma is going to have a field day with this story tomorrow." She quietly slipped out of the kitchen to follow Maura's lead into the dining area.


In the dining room, the Isleses were seated and speaking quietly. Arthur's low voice didn't carry well, but he had excellent diction, so one could hear little tidbits coming down the hallway. "...her choice, and our duty and privilege as parents is to support her in it. This Jane Rizzoli must have some very fine qualities, if Maura loves her."

Charlotte's voice, on the other hand, carried fairly well. "What will people say, Arthur? This just isn't done. How will they be received in society? People believe it's a sin, Arthur, and before you tell me we don't know that they're engaging in physical acts, let me tell you, people don't need to know facts in order to make judgments. I don't want Maura to be ostracized again. I can't stand it when they hurt her. She'll never understand why, either. For the love of God, she could have at least been discreet about it. Nobody minds what they don't know about, but right out in the middle of the club? How many people saw them like that today?" She was quiet, whispering, but with the sort of hiss that only a four-year-old thinks is quiet, fanning herself, looking wild-eyed.

Maura halted right in the doorway as she came face to face with her mother's panicked expression. It took her several seconds to resume her path, setting down the salad bowl and rushing to her mother's side. "Shh, hush, Mama. Breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth. I'm okay, Mama, I'm okay. I'm okay. No one's hurting me. Shh." Calming, competent hands held her mother to her chest as the source of Maura's emotional tendencies became clear. "No one's hurting me, Mama. Jane wouldn't let them."

The sight before her threw Jane into protective mode, all thought of not causing a scene or offending Maura's parents leaving her as she gave the speech she'd given so often to people who were trying to push her or Maura around. "Damn straight." Another slip of Jane's tongue as she allowed her trademark swagger to take over her steps. "No one is going to hurt Maura on my watch." She gently set the dressing down and placed the tongs in the salad bowl, ignoring the etiquette she was certain she was breaking by doing so. "Maura deserves better than she's had in the past. She deserves respect, to be treated well, and there's no way I'm going to let a bunch of uneducated, adolescent acting, prejudiced, idiots make her feel less than what she is." Jane sat down with a definitive air at the head of the table. "Which, for the record, is perfect."

Three heads whipped towards Jane. Arthur's expression, shot to Jane on the sly, was one of quiet but deep approval as he nodded with finality and took his seat on his side of the table with a quiet, "That's exactly what I said to Charlotte's father," uttered at tones only meant for Jane to hear. Charlotte, recognizing the language, calmed down considerably. She still looked nervous, but no longer seemed to be restraining hostility; apparently, Jane's quiet authority rang a bell within her, trained as she was to respond to the nonverbal cues projected by someone who was well in charge of any given situation.

Maura's face, on the other hand, shone with fierce, possessive pride. One hand fluttered towards her chest as she heaved a deep sigh, squeezed her mother's shoulders with the other arm, and took her spot at the foot of the table, nearest the doorway to the kitchen. "Damn straight," she echoed, and if Jane's swearing was an accident, hers was not. "Now that that concern has been met, and since the subject has been opened, are there other things that we need to talk about?" She remained standing to serve salad into each bowl.

Charlotte reached out to pat Maura's hand. "I still worry, Maura. Are you sure this is what's best for you? It can be a lonely life, even with someone who loves you." Finally, the straight-backed woman glanced towards Jane with something approaching respect. "How will you live in society? If you don't marry, no one will acknowledge you."

Maura took in her mother's expression, including the things not said aloud. Apparently, this family were quite good at those silent speeches. Then her eyes, so different from both parents' eyes, fixed upon Jane, and at last her father, before returning to Charlotte's face. Some decision was made. "I don't know how we'll deal with society. I do know how we won't deal with them. I won't be marrying a good man, having children by him, and relegating Jane to a secondary place in my life. I won't ask her to stay on and take on the duties of a personal assistant, turn her into a nanny for the children I would have with a husband, then into their governess, and then return to being my invisible assistant the moment my children have move out on their own. I won't ask her to accompany me on business trips just so we can be alone, but make her take a back seat whenever society comes calling and needs me to appear in public at a charity function with my husband. I love her too much to let her live in my shadow like that." She paused, one brow arching delicately towards Charlotte, who had grown white, then red.

The caramel-blonde continued as she turned her compassionate, understanding, tender look onto her father. "And any man who would love me enough to be a figurehead without benefits for my sake... He would surely deserve better, too, such as the opportunity to live openly with his head of security."

Jane raised an eyebrow as she looked from Arthur Isles to Charlotte Isles. With a smile playing at the corners of her lips, she gave the woman at the other end of the table an approving look. "Remind me never," she began with a quiet intensity, "to under estimate you, Maura." She made eye contact with Arthur. "It would take a pretty strong man to deal with something like that. I've seen people kill for less."

"You'll find, Jane," Dr. Isles replied with a quiet dignity, "that, when you love someone enough, you're willing to do almost anything to keep them both safe and happy. But, perhaps you already know that?"

"Yes." Jane replied, reflecting that same quiet dignity as she held Maura's gaze.

"I don't like nor appreciate what is being insinuated. Maura, how could you say such a thing? And, Arthur, you can't really..."

"This salad dressing is lovely, little one," Arthur cut in as he spooned a bit onto his salad. "Did you make it?"

Maura sat with spine tall, in the comfortable way of one absolutely self-assured. "Mother, I'm not insinuating anything. I'm telling you that since I was six, I've understood the way we lived. I can't find it in me to judge you harshly for the choices that you made so long ago, because societal pressures were different and so much stronger. I just can't make the same choice. I can't live with it; maybe I'm not strong enough to do what's right for everyone else. Do you want to know what I think? I think that I don't want you to think you have to live that way, either. The next time you come and visit us, I want you both to bring the people that you love as much as you love each other. Daddy, you should bring Natalie to see me sometime. I miss her. Mother, I'd really like to see Connie again. They were parents to me, too, and I would value the opportunity to honor them as such, and tell them that I know the important place they should have always held in my life, and in your lives. Please do this for me?" That said, she picked up her fork and speared a few spinach leaves. "Yes, I made the dressing. It's very simple, though. I think what you're tasting is actually the candied pecans and the juice from the pears."

Charlotte sat dumbfounded for a long moment, head bowing as she accepted the baring of what she'd always hoped to keep away from her daughter, let alone anyone else. But she was Charlotte Forsythe Isles, the woman who reared Maura to be a person who could shout chastisements to an Irish mob enforcer. Her dignity and equanimity were not long in returning, along with her straightened posture. A long, deep breath later, she reached a too-thin hand to pat Maura's forearm. "We'll bring them," she promised quietly, and then cleared her throat. "Well. I believe that we are all on a first-name basis now. Jane, would you be the friend that Maura brought to Adam Fairfield's memorial dinner? I heard that that pickled prune of a woman, Lydia Pennington, was highly offended at your presence. I should have come sooner just to thank you for twisting her pigtails."

"I don't really like to talk about that dinner." Jane frowned as she pushed a few leaves around in her salad bowl. "But, yes, I was the 'plus one'."

"I'm very proud of you, little one. Natalie will be very happy to see you. She asks about you often." Arthur quietly told his daughter before turning to Jane. "I understand there was an incident regarding a fish." He commented before finishing the remainder of his salad.

"I really don't like talking about that dinner party." Jane repeated with a little more force. "Mrs. Isles," she gave the older woman a look that rang of caution, "I just have to say this. Blame it on my middle class upbringing and years of being on the force, but," she set her fork down and flexed her hands. It was a nervous gesture, "You know I'd never intentionally do anything to embarrass Maura. I embarrass her enough without trying. But, my family and our friends love us as we are," she began to run the fingers of her left hand over the scars on her right. "And Boston is very liberal. She and I could marry if we decided to. So, why are you so worried about how we'll live in society? The society we live in already accepts us." She glanced down at her hands, frowning at what she saw before looking back up at Charlotte. "You know, I'll do whatever I need to do, short of denying Maura, to make sure she's okay wherever she is and whoever she's with. I'll learn. I may be a cop, but I'm not stupid. I can learn."

Maura's tolerant smile warmed as she explained, "Jane finds it valuable many times to be underestimated, and so she purposefully cultivates a reputation of being somewhat simple, undereducated, and at times even boorish. She is none of those things, I assure you. As it happens, the fish incident was... embarrassing, but in a way that I found entirely enchanting. She made me laugh on a day when I really needed to laugh. Yes, there are times when I worry that some of our friends," she spoke to her parents, therefore including only the set of friends she knew from their world, "may shun me. Then I remember that anyone who would shun me based on the fact that I'm with a woman, or the fact that she's a detective, or Italian, or middle-class, or anything about her... isn't really a part of my life in the first place. Those who mind don't matter, Mother, and those who matter don't mind."

She stood to remove the salad bowls and utensils, since everyone seemed to be saving room for the main meal. "Besides," she added with another smile, "we can feel honored that Jane is among us. Her great-grandfather was a steelworker. His very hands helped build this city. Her father has one of the most important jobs in town, as well. Without him and those who share his profession, this city - the entire country, in fact - would not be worth contemplating." So saying, she left Jane in the suddenly respectful company of her parents.

"What does your father do, Jane?" Arthur asked with a genuine air of curiosity.

The brunette sighed heavily. "He's a plumber." She rolled her eyes. "Ma stays at home. My younger brother, Frankie, is a uniform cop." She flexed her hands again before placing them flat against the table top.

"A plumber? How... interesting," Charlotte replied as her eyes settled on Jane's hands.

"He owns his own business. Sometimes my brother and I would help him out when we were younger." Jane shrugged, her eyes fixed on the wine glass sitting in front of her. "He's not rich, but the family has always been comfortable." She glanced at Charlotte. Noticing where the older woman's eyes had landed, she quickly balled up her hands and placed them in her lap.

As she did so, Maura walked back in with the next course, steaks with a small side of gnocchi and roasted vegetables. Her mother's next words caught the younger Dr. Isles up short.

"Is that what happened to your hands?" Charlotte asked, her eyes showing only blankness, her voice slightly cold.

Swiftly, Maura set the serving tray at the edge of the table next to her father, a silent suggestion for him to serve in her place, and then walked with quick grace to Jane's side. There she stood, then bent to look Jane in the eyes. "I'm sorry, mio tesoro. I didn't think to explain beforehand." Her hands moved to envelop Jane's, halfway between shield and comfort, as Arthur began serving each plate. "Mother, Jane's hands are the most beautiful part of her. These hands save lives, care for small creatures, protect this city, and they love me. The scars are just a reminder that once Jane did the bravest thing anyone could ever do. She risked her life for someone else, alone and in the dark, without hope of ever getting out, or even having her sacrifice known by others. These scars mark Jane as a hero. My hero."

"It's okay, Maura." Jane gave the honey- blonde's hands a reassuring squeeze. "You don't have to explain for me." She gently pulled her hands away, placing them in her lap. "Do your hostess thing. I've got this."

Maura nodded and began to serve the vegetables and gnocchi, mentioning to Arthur sotto voce, "The gnocchi are Jane's mother's recipe. I understand it's been passed down from mother to daughters in their family for at least two hundred years." Even with that fascinating bit of information, neither one was really focused on the food. They were listening to Jane, watching Charlotte's reactions, and becoming more and more impressed. That was easy for Arthur, who'd only just met Jane, but for Maura to be impressed and even surprised took some doing.

Jane turned back to Charlotte. "I was the detective who captured Charles Hoyte, The Surgeon. It was in all the papers. I don't think you could have missed it. My name was everywhere for a while, and what happened to me," she held her hands up, "was in every newspaper from here to England. I know because my mother has a scrapbook full of clippings from national and international newspapers that covered the story." She made vague gestures with her hands as she continued. "The headlines read things like, 'Boston Female Homicide Detective Captures The Surgeon' and 'Boston Female Detective Pinned The Surgeon'." She frowned. "They thought the pun was catchy. I thought Ma should have let me shoot the newspaper editor who wrote it. You can try to deflect your failed attempt to keep Maura from the truth by focusing on me. I can take the heat. But, you should know that Maura's smarter than you obviously give her credit for. You know what happened to my hands. There aren't many people who lived in Boston at the time who don't. I can't help it if Maura knew you were a closet lesbian. I've never tried to deceive her. Just because you failed at doing just that doesn't mean you get to start being a bitch to me again to deflect your embarrassment. It doesn't work that way. I'm sitting where I am at this table for a reason."

Arthur took up the challenge first, with a tender expression directed towards his wife. Though they had not been lovers since before Maura's birth, they did love one another, it was clear to see. "We only concealed things from you, Maura, because we knew you might be placed in a position of having to lie for us, and we didn't want that, even before we knew you couldn't. Both of you have opportunities that we didn't have, separately and together. I think I speak for both your mother and myself when I say that we hope you'll take advantage of everything that is now open to you. We just need to know whether we can tell everyone about the wonderful woman our daughter has brought home, or whether you would both prefer privacy and to inform people yourselves. Charlotte, dear, I think now would be the appropriate time for you to say something gracious and honest."

Jane's dark, furious, determined eyes quickly flicked from Mr. Isles to Mrs. Isles. Her face showed nothing but self-assurance and anger. Any worry from earlier in the evening was completely gone, and the faux confidence she projected before was replaced with genuine confidence as the detective slid into the spot she had always been most comfortable in, the role of leader. Her pose holding a slight hint of challenge at Charlotte, as if daring her to do something other than what Arthur had just suggested.

Charlotte's lips pursed in annoyance at the vulgarity as much as at what was actually being said to her, but after a long moment she nodded. "The head of the table. The place of honor at my daughter's table. You're right, she is a genius, and I trust her judgment. You're strong enough to be a match for Maura, which I consider fortunate, because you'll need that strength as a member of our family."

Jane nodded at the recognition she received from Mrs. Isles. With a twinkle of mischievousness in her eye and a smirk beginning to spread across her face, she replied lightly, "You haven't met my mother yet. Compared to her, you two are easy." She chuckled. Giving a wink to Maura, she took a small sip of wine. "It's up to Maura what she'd like to do, Arthur. Everyone in my life, and our life, knows. How she wants to handle your life is up to her. She knows I'll support her in whatever she wants to do."

As her parents waited expectantly, Maura took an elongated moment to consider her options. She searched her parents' faces for cues, then Jane's, before lowering her eyes so as to focus on her own feelings, always elusive. Finally she said, "Would you tell people if I were seeing a man right now?"

To her credit, it was Charlotte who replied first, without even consulting Arthur with a look. "Game, set, and match. Of course we would, if it were serious. I take it this is serious?"

Maura nodded.

"Then we shall mention it in due course of conversations," Charlotte decided, looking a bit taken aback at the notion, a little shaky. "I will admit this isn't easy to face, Maura, darling. It will be hard for me to tell the truth about your love when I couldn't do the same for mine. But I will adjust. Those who can't keep up will simply have to be relegated to casual acquaintance. Real friends will show themselves." Arthur set down his wine glass and gave soft but heartfelt applause from his end of the dining table, murmuring a tender, "Brava."

Jane visibly relaxed at the exchange. Gently, she said into the silence, "Thank you." Clearing her throat, she glanced at the people in the room,

The quiet of the moment was disrupted by her phone ringing. "I'm sorry I have to take this." Standing from the table and opening the front of her suit jacket to pull her phone from its place on her belt, she stepped away. "Rizzoli." She gave an apologetic look as she tried to quickly cover her gun and badge with her jacket as Maura, also facially expressing regret, stood up to go to the living room and find her phone, just in case she was needed as well. She came back with it, still silent in her hand, and set it on the table beside herself with a whisper to her parents, "She's on call. I'm not, but if she pulls a body... That is, if a medical examiner is needed at a crime scene, she tends to request me."

"When? What did you find? He still there? No, don't go in without me. Frost, I mean it. Do not go in without backup. I can be there in 15. Keep an eye on him and… As the senior detective working this case and your partner I'm warning you, Frost. I will single handedly kick your ass from there to Texas and back if you go in there without me. He's not going anywhere. You can wait. I'm on my way."

"She's very commanding," Charlotte murmured, and it sounded very much like a subtle compliment.

Maura's eyes flew towards her mother's face, and what she saw there made her smile. "Mine."

Charlotte had the grace to blush as she responded with dignity, "I'm just saying I approve of your choice. She's strong enough for you. Reminds me of your father... and Connie." Maura all but glowed.

Jane quickly replaced her phone, not bothering to button or smooth her jacket back into place. "I'm sorry, Maura. I have to go. They finally found our main suspect in the Charlston case. I promise to try to keep you from having to work tonight." She quickly rounded the table, kissed Maura quickly goodbye and turned, nodding to the two elder Isles. "Lovely evening… we should do this again at some point without the bravado, pomp, and attitudes. Maybe a burger and beer?" She laughed as she trotted toward the front door, not giving Arthur or Charlotte time to respond.

As Jane hotfooted out of the house, Maura settled back down to finish her dinner, assuming her parents would do the same. "You know, I'm very pleased with the way the gnocchi turned out. I may have seasoned the steaks a little too lightly, but the gnocchi tastes perfect. It's Angela Rizzoli's recipe, did I mention?"

But no, it was not to happen. Arthur and Charlotte were staring openly at Maura.

"What? Do I have something on my face?" Maura wondered, hurriedly brushing at her chin and cheeks just in case.

As one, Arthur and Charlotte Isles said with more surprise than either had shown since that afternoon. "She got you to drink beer?"


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