Chapter 25

December 25, 2008


It was the third time Hotch had woken with her in his arms. Well, almost, anyway. The first time Emily had only technically been in his arms when he'd woken. When he'd actually allowed her to believe he was awake, she was already out of the room. This was, however, the first time they'd both been woken by his son.

"Wake up! Wake up! It's Christmas!"

He chuckled at Emily's groan then had to dodge her arm. He caught it, tucking it back under the covers. "I'll put coffee on," he promised, kissing her temple. He left his son and the woman he was rapidly falling in love with in his large bed, padding out to the kitchen. He filled Jack's sippy cup with juice after starting the coffee maker. He smiled, almost whistling in happiness.

This was something he hadn't fully anticipated, but had hoped for. He had been a good boy the night before, simply wrapping his arms about her as she cuddled close to her side. Who would have known that the strong, independent Agent Prentiss was a snuggler? He loved that he knew such an intimate thing about her. They'd fallen asleep quickly and easily after tucking Jack in, exactly how he'd hoped it would go. For Hotch had planned on asking her at the very least over for Christmas morning since he'd woken on the couch with her. And even if he couldn't get Christmas morning, he had planned on seeing her regardless.

He'd actually prepared for the inevitability and the possibility of her spending the night with him. Stockings were his favourite part of Christmas, and though he didn't have one of his own – it wasn't as much fun to pack one's own stocking – he adored watching Jack open a handful of little things. Since it was such an important tradition for him and she'd been open with sharing all of hers, he'd wanted to share one of his. So he'd packed her a stocking, just a bunch of cute little dollar store finds. Emily wasn't as high maintenance as her upbringing would have supposed.

Jack came scampering into the kitchen. "Presents yet, Daddy?"

"Soon," Hotch promised. "Why don't you grab your stocking?"

"But Daddy, which one is mine?" he asked, his little brow wrinkling in confusion. "There's two."

"The green one," Hotch answered. "But bring the red one too. That's for Emily."

"Em'ly gets ta open a stocking?" Jack asked, eyes wide and excited. "Yay!"

Hotch laughed. "Go get the stockings, I'll bring coffee and juice and we'll open them in bed, okay?"


"Because Emily takes a long time to wake up in the morning," Hotch told his son seriously. "We need to be extra nice because it's Christmas." And he had a feeling it was going to overwhelm Emily anyway. He smiled as he followed his son, dragging two stockings, back into his bedroom. Emily looked up, her brows knitting together as she took in Jack's load. Hotch handed her both her mug and his, dropping first the stockings, then his son onto the covers.

"What is this?" Emily asked. "Room service?"

"For coffee only," Hotch replied, climbing onto to the bed. "And stockings."

"I see that. Did Santa bring you one too?"

He mirrored the quirk of her mouth as he took one of the mugs back from her. "No. He brought one for you."

The look on her face in that instant was better than he'd thought it was going to be. "He did what?"

"You got a stocking," Jack repeated on his father's behalf. "I guess Daddy was a bad boy and didn't get a stocking."

Emily was looking at the velvet stocking, stuffed to the hilt and smiling. "Actually, Jack, he dropped it off at my apartment because he wasn't sure if he was going to get a chance to come by here. But I guess he did because you have a stocking and I have a stocking."

"Can I open it, Daddy?"

Hotch was still a little stuck on the fact that she'd thought to pack him a stocking. "Sure."

Emily pulled Jack into her lap, allowing Hotch to squeeze closer. Her hand went up into his hair, scratching lightly at his scalp. "What did you get?"

"I can't believe you put together a stocking," he said under his breath as his son all but tore through the annual stocking tradition.

"You did one for me."

"But you didn't know that at the time," he argued. "It's my favourite tradition."

"Mine too," she admitted, smiling widely as Jack held up one of the dinosaur toys Santa had brought for Jack's stocking. "I thought it was an important one to share."

He kissed her temple again. "Thank you."

"You haven't even seen the stocking yet," she said with a laugh as Jack turned to her an expectant look on his face. He'd torn through that particular portion of the morning. Emily, on the other hand, took her time, pulling little things like fun pens that reminded her of Garcia, and a trashy magazine, from the stocking as well as a book by her favourite author and chocolate.

"More, Daddy, more!"

Hotch grinned. "By all means. Let's go open more presents."

Emily had arranged to spend Boxing Day with Anne and the girls, which left her Christmas night free for Hotch to come to her apartment for dinner. And he had. They'd eaten well and Emily's nerves that had crept up on her between his place and hers had pretty much startled her. He'd opened his stocking and present now and the two of them were cuddled together on her couch watching a Christmas special.

He'd looked so incredibly dejected as he entered her apartment only hours earlier and she couldn't really blame him. He'd actually called on his way back from Haley's to ask if she would mind terribly if he came early. Emily rolled with the punches and told him that it was perfectly fine. She wasn't about to leave him at home alone when he'd just dropped his son off at his ex-wife's house.

"Thank you," Hotch murmured into her hair.

"For what?" Emily replied, genuinely confused.

He smiled. "For this Christmas, for sharing your traditions with me, for letting me see this side of you."

"You don't have to thank me for that," she replied, tilting her head back.

He kissed her, happy to oblige the invitation. "This is one of my best Christmases," he admitted.

"Mine too,' she agreed. "And it's all thanks to you."

He hummed, low and in his chest, making Emily shiver. "It was my pleasure."

She sighed, relaxing even more and pressing herself against him softly. "I would have never guessed, even two months ago, that we'd end up here on Christmas Day."

"Together?" he inquired. "Or in this exact spot."

"Both," Emily admitted honestly. "I don't usually let people into my home."

"Things are changing," Hotch said with a smile.

There wasn't a single bone in Emily's body that wanted to contradict that. There was no way she could. "I think so too."

"For the better?"

Her words were mumbled against his lips. "For the better," she agreed and sealed her mouth to his.

Well, ladies, gentlemen and faithful readers, this marks the end of 2008's Annual Christmas story.

I hope everyone has been having a good holiday, or had a good holiday for those of you who don't get 2 weeks off like I do. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas to you all. For those who don't, happy holidays!

Thanks to everyone who has faithfully read and reviewed. You guys have, in many ways that you are not even aware of, helped me figure out where this story is going and some of the chapters have been based solely around suggestions people have given me.

Thanks again!