I almost forgot about this!
Ladies and gentlemen and anyone/thing else reading this, welcome to Kavi Leighanna's 2008 Christmas Fic!
Here's how this works: I try my dardest to write a chapter and post a chapter for every day in December leading up to Christmas. If I get behind, I usually post a number of them a day to make sure I keep up. The goal is to have 25 chapters. Last year's ended up with 24 and I swear, there was nothing I could do about it.
Anything is fair game. Cases, fluff, Jack, and there is the possibility of spoilers for episodes leading up to this point and possibly the ones that have yet to air. Most years I pick a pairing. This year, like all of the other Criminal Minds stories I've written in literally the last year - my first HotchPrentiss story was last year's Christmas story - it will be focused on Emily and Hotch's developing relationships.
December 1, 2008
Christmas always brought out the happier side of Aaron Hotchner. He wasn't sure what it was, especially since he couldn't exactly credit his own childhood with fostering such a love of the holiday, but there was something about Christmas that changed him. The minute December first rolled around, he started to anticipate the days of red and green. It helped that he'd managed to secure the week of Christmas off for him and the entirety of his team.
There was nothing short of the apocalypse that would be able to draw him back into the office for that week. He and Haley had managed to come to an agreement regarding the holidays and their six-year-old son, Jack. The little boy would be picked up by his father from school the Friday before the holidays and stay with him until noon on Christmas day. Then Hotch would return Jack to his mother. The idea of having five uninterrupted days with his son was more than appealing.
Hotch had felt a little bit like a small child when he'd glanced at the calendar to see it was indeed December first. Which also meant his ex-wife was due to drop said son off any minute. Their custody agreement also included provisions for Jack to see his father at least once a week, excluding weekends and providing Hotch was staying in the city.
He saw Haley and Jack enter the office and found himself standing and almost rushing to the door.
Hotch caught and swung his son up into his arms with no regard for the team still milling about the bullpen. "Hey Buddy."
The enthusiasm in Jack was infectious and he found himself grinning at his exuberance.
Haley handed the boy's bag over to his father. Inside were colouring books and activities for the boy while his father finished up in the office. She'd asked to drop him off because she had her own plans for the evening. Hotch would drop him off after dinner. "That should be everything."
"Thanks for dropping him off, Haley," Hotch said sincerely. Things had been strained as they'd worked out the conditions of custody and the divorce agreement, but it had also given both of them a chance to express a lot of different things and Hotch now understood that they'd simply grown apart. Sure, it was, in large part, due to his job, but he didn't exactly regret his choices now and he knew she understood he had to do what he had to do. The BAU was Aaron Hotchner and Haley simply hadn't understood that.
"Do you know what time you'll have him home?"
"Probably around 8," Hotch replied, bouncing the giggling little boy.
"Say bye to Mommy, Jack."
After smacking kisses and little tickles, Haley departed, leaving Hotch with a six-year-old and tones of paperwork to finish before they could head out. His attention was so focused on Jack that he missed the pair of dark eyes that followed his every movement up the stairs and into his office.
Emily Prentiss watched her boss settle his son, the boy with Haley's chin and nose but otherwise the spitting image of his father, onto the couch that dominated one wall of his office, spreading the child out with various activities from the backpack Haley had left behind. She couldn't help but smile, her own heart excitedly set on the family holiday that made December a hectic month.
It was nice to see Hotch happy and much freer than she was used to. There had been many a night she'd stayed back in the office, not only for David Rossi, her colleague and close friend, but for Hotch too. She wasn't sure Hotch was even aware of it, but it made her feel better to know that there was someone there with him and he wasn't left behind in the office by himself at night. She'd continued the practice even after Rossi had started leaving at a half-decent time and though Hotch had never made any sort of overture towards noticing, acknowledging or thanking her, it wasn't what she was looking for.
She tried to turn back to her paperwork, the tail end of it anyway, but she couldn't seem to stop glancing up at Jack as he coloured away on the small table in front of the couch. That continued for about an hour before she could tell the child was getting restless. It was natural child mentality, especially at Jack's young age. She wasn't surprised it was difficult for the little boy to keep himself quietly occupied with crayons for hours on end. If his looks said anything about his personality, the child was bound to be an active one.
Luckily for her, it didn't take her longer than a half an hour to complete the remainder of her paperwork. She took in the Hotchner males. She could hear Jack's little voice carrying over the soft buzz of the bullpen and though she knew Hotch adored his little boy, it couldn't be easy to concentrate on his own work with the child blabbering away. However, the crayons and colours gave her an idea. With a small, slightly triumphant smile, Emily folded up her work and carried the closed files up to Hotch's office. There were a few things he had to sign off on anyway.
"Hey Hotch," she greeted, knocking on the door. "I need your signature on a few of these before I can send them to the archives."
Hotch nodded as Emily stepped closer, the files outstretched. "I'll do it now."
She smiled her thanks before seating herself in a chair by her supervisor's desk. She could feel little curious eyes on her and she smiled to herself before glancing backwards, then pretending to do a double take. "And who is this handsome boy?"
Hotch couldn't keep the smile from tilting the corners of his mouth. "This is Jack. Jack, come say 'hello'."
The six-year-old was shy as he made his way over to the pretty dark-haired lady, his pointer finger straying close to his mouth. He stopped beside her chair, looking up at her with large, dark eyes. "Hewow," he said quietly, around his finger.
"Hello, Mr Jack," Emily said solemnly, holding out her hand. She almost grinned when Jack shook her hand with a severely serious expression on his face. She wondered if Hotch realized how much like him Jack was. She was sure he'd be proud of it if he ever found out. "My name is Emily."
The little boy tilted his head to the side, considering her. She seemed nice enough, though he'd always been more wary of adults than he had of children. "I'm colouring," he said seriously.
Emily glanced at her supervisor, almost stunned by the curious way he was watching them. "Can I see?"
Jack nodded, scampering back to the table to grab the pages, knocking crayons to the floor in the process. He presented the pages to her in a jumbled chunk.
Carefully, Emily separated the newsprint, smiling at the Christmas theme of the pictures. "You don't like Christmas, do you?" she asked, smiling at the young boy.
He nodded. "Tha's Santa and the elfs… And Rudolph!"
Emily laughed heartily at the child's enthusiasm. "Christmas is my favourite season," she confided in a quiet voice, as if bestowing on Jack a big secret.
His eyes lit up. "Me too! Daddy! Em'ly likes Christmas!"
Hotch actually chuckled, his shoulders shaking with the expression and Emily had to rack her brain for the last time, if any, she could remember Hotch laughing. "What's your favourite part of Christmas?" Emily asked.
"All of it!" Jack exclaimed exuberantly. "Presents!"
That was what she'd expected. She set the papers in her lap with a look of consideration on her face. Jack had played into her hand better than she'd ever expected. "Well I have an idea, if you and your daddy don't mind."
"An idea?" Hotch asked. This was as open towards him as he'd ever seen his brunette colleague, as soft as she'd ever been and he could only chalk it up to his six-year-old son. Children always brought out a different side of people. He wasn't surprised when she addressed the idea to Jack instead of to him.
"You already have crayons and we have paper and I'd bet there is someone around here with glue and scissors. What do you say, Mr Jack, to making decorations with me?" It had always been one of her favourite parts of the holiday season.
Jack turned wide eyes to his father. "Can I?"
Hotch considered this for a moment. He trusted Emily, that wasn't a question and it was a tempting offer, especially since it would keep Jack's attention for enough time to allow him to finish his paperwork. Still, Jack was his responsibility and he felt a little off about all but foisting him off on his subordinate.
"Please Daddy?" The idea of decorations really appealed to him and he wanted to spend more time with the pretty lady Daddy worked with. She actually talked to him. And she smelled yummy. Like fruit.
Emily looked sincere about the offer. "Okay," he acquiesced.
"Yay!" Jack exclaimed.
"Yay!" Emily agreed laughing. "Pack up your crayons, okay? We're going to need them. And I'll be right back."
With the peace and quiet he'd been afforded when Emily took Jack, it didn't take Hotch long to finish the work he'd been doing. Well, relatively speaking anyway. Since Haley had dropped the boy off right after school, Jack had been at the BAU for just over three hours, half of which, he'd spent with Emily. Now, however, Hotch had every intention of taking his boy out for dinner. The files could wait until tomorrow to be dropped off.
He fully intended to make the next few minutes quick. He wanted as much uninterrupted time with his son as he could get and bond with him as best one could bond with a six-year-old, but the minute he looked into the conference room – where Jack and Emily had set up shop – his entire opinion changed. Jack was perched on her lap, watching as she carefully cut out a shape, explaining something to him all the while. The boy looked absolutely enraptured as Emily unfolded the page into a perfectly beautiful snowflake. His smile was wide and broad, carefree and Emily's was too.
Why hadn't he noticed that smile before? It definitely wasn't the first time he'd seen it. On the contrary, he had to have seen it many times, for she wasn't a terribly depressed individual. It was wide an uninhibited, brought out by the simple happiness of the little boy perched on her lap. Instead of rushing to the conference room, he took his time, watching both of them, watching as Jack squirmed when Emily tickled his sides. His son had definitely taken to her and now that he looked at her this way, away from the cases and the workload and every stress she'd probably ever felt, he could see why. She was actually startlingly beautiful.
Hotch scooped his son into his arms like he'd done hours before, catching sight of the soft smile on Emily's face before she busied herself with cleaning up their mess. "Did you have fun?"
"We made trees and Santas and Em'ly even cut out a Rudolph!"
Hotch was actually surprised by that revelation. It couldn't be easy to cut out a reindeer from paper, but he could see the evidence on the dark wooden table when he stepped into the room. All of their projects were safely piled in one corner of the table, by the chair that held Jack's backpack. He put Jack down and the child all but climbed onto the table to help Emily clean up their mess. He came up beside her, gathering a handful of nearby crayons and taking the box she held out to him. "Thank you."
Her smile was bright and genuine and it made his heart flip. "It was no problem, Hotch. He's a great kid."
"He didn't give you any trouble?"
"None at all," Emily promised. "Right Jack?"
Jack clenched his hand in the sleeve of her sweater. "I even glued!"
Hotch arched an eyebrow and Emily shrugged. "I kept him away from the scissors."
He looked at the snowflake Jack was trying to carefully pile with his other things. "I don't know if I'll be able to."
"Safety scissors work just as well," she promised. "He'll be able to make his own snowflakes without worry of poking his eyes out."
Between them, they managed to clean things up fairly quickly and Emily even produced an envelope for Jack to store the decorations in.
"Can Em'ly come with us Daddy?" Jack asked innocently.
Hotch glanced at the woman in question, noticing the surprise and anxiousness in her gaze. "Not this time, Buddy," he said. "Maybe some other time." He knew it was enough to placate the child for now without putting Emily in an awkward situation.
Jack pouted but seemed to understand. "Okay." Then, in a regular mercurial shift in mood, he was happy again. "Let's go, Daddy! I wanna go to the Cheese place!"
Hotch sighed. Haley had mentioned that the birthday party of one of his friends almost three months ago had the boy addicted to Chuck E. Cheese. He'd never understand the draw of the place, personally, but out of the last six times the two Hotchner men had headed out to dinner, four of them had been dinner at said restaurant. "Say thank you."
Jack latched on to Emily's arm, hugging it tightly. "Thank you Em'ly!"
She laughed, her other hand ruffling the boy's hair. "You're welcome."
Jack hopped down off of his chair, tugging on his father's pant leg. "Let's go!"
Emily smiled. "Go ahead," she reassured her supervisor. "If you've got all of his things, I can finish cleaning up here."
He wanted to argue at how unfair it was that she not only occupied his son for the last hour and a half, but she was cleaning up after him too, but he also wanted to spend time with Jack.
"Go," she reassured. "There isn't much left anyway."
His hand reached out on its own accord to squeeze her forearm. "Thank you," he said sincerely.
"You're welcome, Hotch."
So, there is the beginning of this year's 25-Chapter Christmas extravaganza! I'm excited.
Now, this is not part of any series nor does it have anything to do with any other story I've written. Its most definitely Emily/Hotch focused and centered and I have a plan for them for every day in December up until Christmas. Depending on how I'm feeling at the end of December we'll see if I can extend that into the new year, but I make no guarantees. The goal is 25 chapters
As always, I'm open to suggestions. In fact, I'm missing ideas for something like 4 days of December! They're later days, so no worries, but I am more than open to your ideas or Christmas traditions. If there's anything you guys usually do around the holiday season, I'd like to know.
Reviews are always loved and appreciated anyway!