"Speak to me Baby Girl!"

Rossi, JJ, Hotch and Reid quickly took their seats around the conference table as Derek stood nearby with his phone on speaker.

"Harold Simpson."

"Okay, I know that's one of your pauses for dramatic purposes but I remind you…"

"Yes my Chocolate Adonis I want you home for Christmas."

"Good. So, what you got for me Sweetness?"

"Harold Simpson, twenty-eight is our common denominator between these victims. He bounced from foster home to foster home after his mother dropped him off on the steps of Christ Our Redeemer Church in downtown Atlanta. AND to make matters even sadder, she dropped him off on Christmas Eve."

"That would definitely give a kid Christmas issues."

"So true Blondie. Now here's where things get interesting. Two of our victims are registered as emergency Foster care providers and Harold spent time in both of their homes. According to child welfare records, Harold could only stay in each place for a few weeks and because he was a behavior problem he was hard to place in a permanent home. Harold was finally placed with Bertha Masters and things were going well for a while until Harold attacked a teacher at school. Masters insisted he be removed from her home and he was again placed in an emergency home and then finally was sent to stay in a group home until he aged out of the system."

"So Masters was the first victim. He thought he'd finally found a home." JJ began.

"And to top it off, he was removed from the Master's home on Christmas Eve."

"So his biological mother gives him up around Christmas and his foster family did the exact same thing! Stuffing her in the chimney was an act of extreme rage. It was just too time consuming and difficult to repeat with the other victims." Rossi added.

"He's not done."

Everyone stopped and focused their attention on the youngest member of their team.

"What, Pretty Boy?"

"Harold has killed three of his foster mothers that leaves on more left."

"You're right. He's not going to stop until he finishes." Then. "Garcia…"

"On it Bossman."

Morgan and Rossi rushed out of the building headed toward the SUV's. Like what was often the case, the drive was quiet the atmosphere heavy with anticipation.

"You think we'll make it in time?"

"We can't think about that right now, we just have to get there."

"Garcia's been trying to call her for the last twenty minutes, Rossi."

"I know Morgan but you've been doing this a long time and you know that sometimes we don't get there in time. All we can do is our best."

"I just don't want to lose this one Rossi."

"Yeah I know you don't, kid none of us do."

Home of Bertha Masters –

The dingy-white late model sedan looked out of place in the upscale neighborhood. It stuck out like a sore thumb parked haphazardly in the driveway. Morgan parked across the driveway blocking any possible escape. Both men exited as Hotch, JJ and Reid pulled up. Hotch ordered Morgan and Rossi to enter the house through the front door while he, JJ and Reid entered through the rear.

Muted voices drew Morgan and Rossi toward a door that they both assumed led to the basement. On the count of three Rossi followed Morgan quietly through the door and down the steps. It didn't take long for Harold to see them perched on the steps with guns drawn and aimed at his head. He quickly shifted his position to stand behind the frightened woman using her trembling body as a shield.

"Harold Simpson, it's the FBI! Put the gun down." Morgan ordered.

"She deserves to die! She doesn't deserve to see Christmas!"

"Don't do anything foolish, Harold!" Rossi added as both he and Morgan were now standing on the basement floor.

"Don't come any closer, either of you or I'll shoot her!"

"We know what happened to you, Harold. It sucks, man I know it does."

"You don't know anything!"

"I do, I do! Mothers can really piss you off sometimes, Harold but trust me, you don't want to do this!"

"I just wanted a family for Christmas. Was that asking too much? My mother dumped me like garbage on Christmas Eve and my other families got rid of me before Christmas too!"

Morgan moved closer to the man who was now shaking slightly with tears of anguish streaming down his face.


"It's okay…me and Harold we get it, right Harold?"

Harold looked from one agent to the other then trained his attention on Morgan with a slim hope that someone would be on his side. He shook his head in agreement. Rossi tightened his grip on his gun just in case.

"Let her go, Harold."

"I-I can't do that."

"If you kill her then she wins. She gets to die knowing that she ruined your Christmas and your life."

Derek took another step closer and so did Rossi.

"If you let her go then she loses, Harold. I know that doesn't make any sense but if you let her live than you're showing her that her giving you away didn't end your life! Don't you see Harold…her giving you away gave you life! It didn't destroy you…Harold."

"I…just wanted…a family…"

"I know…"

Morgan took another step toward Harold. He was almost close enough to take the gun.

"…That's all. I just wanted a family for Christmas"

Morgan gently placed his hand on Harold's and pulled it away from the woman's temple. Harold offered no resistance as he looked pleadingly into Morgan's face.

"I know, I know." Then taking the gun out of the man's hand. "Harold Simpson, you're under arrest."

Home of Derek and Penelope Morgan – Morning –

On any other case the team would have spent the night in Atlanta but it was two days before Christmas and all of them wanted to get home. Morgan insisted that Penelope go home and get some rest and after several minutes of arguing back and forth he basked in a rare win with his wife. The ride home was quiet with most of them sleeping most of the way. He hadn't slept though all he could think of was his conversation with Rossi. He'd never shared that with anyone before. It felt good to let go of some of the baggage he'd lugged around for so long.

He didn't realize how tired he was until he stepped inside of his home. The smells of Christmas greeted him warmly as he plopped down on the couch. The lights on the tree were still on blinking brightly no doubt an intentional gesture of his thoughtful wife. This case had taken a lot out of him. Knowing that seven young children would spend Christmas without their mothers broke his heart. For a moment he felt ashamed for being so angry with his mother even though he still believed she had been wrong in trying to manipulate him into doing what she wanted.

She could never sleep knowing that he was on his way home. She had to see that he was safe with her own eyes. He looked so peaceful sitting on the couch his head resting against the wall and his eyes closed. Knowing him he hadn't meant to fall asleep but no doubt he needed the rest. The case had been a difficult one with all of them secretly dedicated to solving it quickly and getting back to what mattered to them the most. Penelope tiptoed around the couch and slowly lowered herself next to him. Derek began to stir once she planted a light kiss on his cheek and took his hand in hers.

"Hey Baby Girl."

"Welcome home Hot Stuff."

He turned his head and looked at her with a smile on his face.

"I missed you."

"Not as much as I missed you."

She saw the emotions on his face even though he was certain he'd concealed them from her.

"Bad huh?"

"Yeah it was pretty bad."

She curled up close and laid her head on his chest. Instinctively his arm wrapped around her and held her in place tight against his body.



"Can you talk to me?"

"About what?"


She smiled his request was similar to one made several years ago before they'd gotten together.

"Okay." She kissed him lightly on the lips. He moaned and she kissed him again for good measure. "I'm here for you, Handsome and I love you with all of my heart.

"I know you do. I love you too."

Then the sound of his snoring replaced the quietness in the room.

Later that morning…

The heavenly smells of bacon, eggs and pancakes roused Derek from his slumber. He could hear Penelope tinkering in the kitchen so he slowly pulled his body from the couch and headed down the hall. He smiled as he snuck up on her wrapping his strong arms around her waist.

"Good morning beautiful!"

"I'll show you a good morning, Hot Stuff."

Chuckling he planted a kiss on her neck. He loved their mornings together. Watching her working around the kitchen made him smile and he realized just how blessed he was.

"Sit, breakfast is ready."

"Yes ma'am."

Just then the doorbell rang and he sprang to his feet.

"I'll get it, Baby Girl."

Checking his watch he peered through the peephole surprised to see the woman standing on the other side.

"Ma? What are you doing here?"

"Hey Baby Boy."

Derek stepped aside to let her in.

"I'm sorry to bother you this early in the day."

"No, you know you're always welcome. We were just about to sit down for breakfast, join us."

"No…I just wanted to talk to you."

He saw the sad look on her face.

"What's wrong? Is Dave okay?"

"Yes he's fine but he did tell me about your conversation."

"Oh, that…"

"Yes, that."

Derek motioned to the couch and the two of them sat down. She was nervous and it was obvious. The two of them had never spoken much about his abuse. She'd tried several times to get him to talk to her but he would only withdraw and become angry.

"Son, why didn't you talk to me? I had no idea…"

"Ma, I'm sorry. I couldn't talk about it, especially to you."

"Why? I'm your mother and I love you."

"Yeah I know and I love you. I just was too…"

"Oh my god…do you blame me for what happened to you? If I hadn't insisted you start going to the community center this would have never happened…"

"No! Don't! Don't do that, Ma! What that man did to me was not your fault, not even close!"

She was the strongest woman he knew but at that moment she looked so fragile as tears began to stream down her face.

"I never blamed you, ever! You and my sisters are the only reasons I survived."


"If I didn't have you…if I were alone…what that man did would have killed me. I felt like garbage and every time he would touch me I wanted to die…to take my life but I had you and Sarah and Dez."

"Oh my poor baby boy…"

"You saved me because I had a reason to live…to keep going."

"Thank you, Derek." Then wiping the tears from her face. "I wanted to let you know that I am officially releasing you from your Santa duties. Mr. Sanchez agreed to fill in this year."

"I'll do it."

"No really, what I did was pretty low and I shouldn't have..."

"I'll do it."

"I can't blame you if you never…

"Ma! I said, I'll do it."

"What? "

"Really I'll do it."

"But…you were pretty adamant about not doing it what changed your mind?"

"This case. I realize I can't let Carl control me especially from the grave. It's time I take my life, my past, my present and my future back from his filthy hands."

"I don't know what to say."

"Just tell me what time I need to be at the church."

"Thank you, son…I'm so proud of you! So, so proud of you!"

Christmas Eve –

Emmanuel Christian Church – Evening –

Fran stood beaming as she looked over the crowd. The church was packed and it was safe to say that this was the best pageant in the church's history. The Children's Miracle Network would be receiving a very large gift from them. The loud enthusiastic applause slowly began to die down as she waited to make her final introduction.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you all so much for coming out this evening. To close out our program tonight, is a very special guest. So without further ado let's put our hand together and welcome, Santa Claus as he reads, "Christmas Bells," written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow!"*

Fran turned and headed behind the curtains just as Derek, dressed in all the regalia of Saint Nick too the stage. Penelope had out done herself with every minute detail. No one would ever recognize Derek behind the white hair and mustache. The children screamed and clapped and jumped up and down with glee as he took his place in the big high back chair in the middle of the stage.

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,

A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Fran felt her husband's arms wrap lovingly around her waist. For the first time that day she relaxed letting him support the weight of her body against his. God had blessed her more than she could ever imagine or deserve. Life had dealt her an interesting hand that had often been filled with sadness and challenges. Her only son had endured so much pain in secret, determined to protect her and his sisters from the truth. He had been so young when he insisted on assuming his father's place as the man of the house.

Over the years she'd been blessed with love at a time when she'd grown familiar with being alone. David Rossi had stepped in and loved her hard and patiently. He was confident that he could make her happy and he was not intimidated by her past. She was happy, so much so that sometimes it felt like a dream. As she watched Derek who had been so broken and determined to hide the fissures that ran through his heart now taking his life back and proving that he was a survivor of Satin himself.

"Then from each black, accursed mouth

The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent

The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn

The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;

"There is no peace on earth," I said;

For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Fran hadn't realized that she had been crying until Dave gently wiped the tears from her face. She had so much to live for and with every loss she was convinced now more than ever, she had gained it back ten times over.

"Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men."


*Christmas Bells By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was inspired to write this poem in 1863 during the Civil War when his son went off to fight for the Union against his wishes. While this song is about Christmas time, there is an underlying tone of the war (The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail). This poem is the basis for the Christmas carol "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."

Source: poem/christmas-bells-by-henry-wadsworth-longfellow