Let It Snow

The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.
Doug Larson

Oak Tree Inn
Buffalo, NY

Morgan eventually found Reid in his room, standing by the window, just staring out.

"Reid? You okay?" The room was dark and Morgan started fumbling for the light switch.

"Don't." Reid's voice was soft and he didn't turn away from the window. "Come see."

Grumbling a little as he tripped over a chair, Morgan came to look over Reid's shoulder. The hotel's small garden was covered in a light blanket of snow. They'd watched it fall that morning and taken the inevitable call from the airport telling them that they'd be stuck here for another day or so until it cleared. Still, Morgan had to admit that it looked pretty.

"Don't suppose you get much snow in Vegas," he said eventually, moving so that he and Reid were shoulder to shoulder.

"It gets pretty cold sometimes, and there's the odd flurry, but the snow's never very heavy." In the reflected light from the whiteness, Morgan could see Reid smiling. "Bit different to Chicago."

"Just a bit." Turning and leaning against the windowsill, Morgan folded his arms. "I remember one winter when I was a kid, my sisters and I built what we thought was the world's biggest snowman. We had to stand on a wall to put the face on."

"The world's actual biggest snowman was over a hundred and thirteen feet tall. It was in Bethel, Maine in nineteen-ninety-nine. They named it 'Angus, King of the Mountain' after the state Governor." Catching Morgan's eye, Reid's smile widened into a sheepish grin. "I'm guessing yours wasn't quite that tall."

"Not quite." Laughing, Morgan shook his head. "It was pretty fun though. The kids in the neighborhood used to see who could make the biggest snowman, the biggest snowball, the biggest snow mountain." Seeing Reid's expression moving from amused to wistful, Morgan tilted his head. "I guess you never really got the chance to do things like that."

"Not really." Reid shook his head. "For me, snow was the cold, wet stuff that the other guys put down the back of my neck."

They stood in silence for a moment, then Morgan pushed himself upright. "Don't go anywhere." He wagged a finger at Reid, then disappeared out of the door.

When he came back after five minutes, he had Elle and JJ in tow and was carrying his coat. He pulled Reid's jacket from the back of the chair and threw it across the room.

"Get your gloves," he said, seeing Reid's puzzled look. "It won't be light for much longer. Got to catch it while we can."

The sun was low in the sky by the time Hotch pulled the car into the hotel parking lot. As he cut the engine, he heard Gideon sigh.

"You okay?"

"Fine." Gideon didn't move for a moment, just sitting, staring at the snow. "Looks like we could be here a while."

Nodding, Hotch undid his seatbelt. "Occupational hazard. Hope you brought a good book."

"Actually, I was going to get Reid to brief us on the latest from Homeland Security." Gideon undid his own seatbelt, pulling on his gloves before opening the car door. "He read everything before-" He broke off, frowning.

"What is it?"

"Do you hear that?" Tilting his head, Gideon closed his eyes.

Hotch climbed out of the car, also listening. The snow made all sounds muffled and soft, and he was about to ask Gideon what he was listening for when he heard it.

"Sounds like screaming," he said, frowning. "A woman."

Gideon was already moving, hurrying as fast as he could, slipping on the frozen tarmac. Pushing the car door shut, Hotch followed him, throwing out his arms as his feet slipped in the snow. He debated about drawing his gun, then, as his feet slid in different directions, he decided it would be too much of a liability until he was standing still again.

He rounded the corner of the building, almost running into Gideon, who was leaning against the wall, an odd expression on his face.

"What-" Hotch started to ask, but Gideon held up a hand for silence. Closer to the source, Hotch could hear more shouts and screams, but they held quite a different tone now. Moving carefully now, he walked slowly to the corner, looking out at the hotel's garden.

Elle and JJ were crouched behind one of the benches, gathering snow in their gloved. As Hotch watched, a snowball hit the bench above them, showering them in flakes, and making JJ squeal again. Elle laughed, standing and throwing her own missile over the lawn. Following its trajectory, Hotch saw the top of Reid's head, just visible above a large, now-white, bush. In the middle of the lawn, there was a large snowman who appeared to have taken the brunt of some of the snow-battle. His carrot nose was wonky, and his hat had slipped down one side of his head.

Hotch looked back at Gideon, who was watching him, a smile on his face. Shaking his head, Hotch said, "This is what FBI Special Agents do when they get downtime?"

"Maybe they've got the right idea." Gideon came to stand next to him, watching as Reid lobbed another snowball over the bush, hitting the bench with a gentle thud. He didn't duck quickly enough, though, and JJ's next shot caught him on the side of the head. Gasping, he vanished behind the foliage again, and Hotch heard the women giggling.

It was the best thing he'd heard in a week.

Raising an eyebrow, he surveyed the scene. "You know," he said slowly, carefully not looking at Gideon, "if we were to go back through the parking lot, we could circle the building and come out over there." He nodded to the other side of the garden.

Gideon considered this. "Would give us good shots at all of them."

"That it would."

With a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth, Gideon turned and started to head back towards the car. Hotch waited long enough to see Elle remove the snowman's hat with a single, well-aimed throw, then he turned and followed. The others would never know what hit them.