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Emily placed the silver Christmas star at the top of her tree and stood back to take in the view. The ornaments were a gift from her mother who liked everything to match. They were silver too, and they gleamed against the red tinsel wrapped around the tree. The lights were white and red, and they blinked on and off, against the green of the fake fir tree that spent fifty-one weeks in storage. She hated it.
"Why can't you just get your own decorations for the tree?"
Her voice didn't carry over the radio which was playing a rollicking version of 'Rockin' around the Christmas Tree,' while she decorated. There was no one there to talk to anyway. It was December 21st. It was the Sunday before Christmas and she was alone. She put up the tree and decorated it that way because her mother would expect to see those decorations if she came over.
"She's not going to come over here. She expects you to go to whatever fancy Ambassadorial function she can get you to this year."
That was true, the chances of her mother showing up for eggnog and green bean casserole were next to nothing, and yet she always put up the same tree. It irked her that she was so unable to stand up to her mother and have the kinds of decorations she wanted.
"Just do it and deal with the consequences."
She went to the kitchen and peered into the saucepan on the stove. She was making her grandfathers recipe for hot chocolate. The milk was beginning to steam and was ready for the shaved baker's chocolate to melt inside. She added some vanilla, sugar, and some nutmeg after the chocolate melted and was stirred smooth in the pan. Whipped cream and cinnamon topped off the mug of chocolate and she took a sip. It wasn't as good as what her grandfather made, but it was pretty good for her mood, which was in the toilet.
Her phone rang. The caller id said it was her mother. Her hand hovered over the phone and then she pulled back. Her mom could leave a message. After six rings the answering machine came on. "Emily, this is your mother."
Of course it was her mother, who else could it be?
"Something came up for Christmas. Your father's been called away until the end of the year. I won't bother you with the details, but I have to go with him to Switzerland. Merry Christmas darling, I'll see you after the New Year. Call me on my cell."
Yeah, like that was going to happen. Her mother had once again run out on her at Christmas. She wasn't going to call her back. Her mother wouldn't notice if she didn't call back so why go through the heartache.
So why was she sitting there, looking around at all the Christmas decorations and cards set up over the apartment? Outside the window the monuments of Washington were glowing gold and all the lights set up twinkled in a million different colors. Snow was falling thick outside the window and it was like one of the hundred sappy Christmas movies that promised a happy ending.
Her phone rang again and she just sat there listening to it ring till the answering machine kicked in again. "Hi baby, look I'm sorry to spring this on you, but I can't stay in DC for the week. My boss just sent me on an emergency trip to Ireland. The plant is having some major staffing problems. It's a new plant and he wants to make sure that everything is fixed before the New Year. I'm sorry. Call me."
Tears were leaking from her eyes by the time the message was over. This was the last time Craig or any man was going to do this. It was over. She was nearly thirty nine years old and alone. It was time to give up on love and just accept that she was going to be alone forever. She got up and went to her liquor cabinet. She poured some brandy into what was left of the hot chocolate. It tasted horrible for the first three sips, but it washed away the salty taste of the tears in the back of her throat. Maybe the universe would take pity on her and call her away from all this on a case. But the phone didn't ring, so she got up from the couch, and began to remove the decorations from the tree.
Emily came out of the break room with a fresh cup of coffee and nearly dropped it at the sight of Reid at his desk. He wore a dark blue coat with his purple scarf wrapped around his neck. He was pulling off a pair of knitted purple gloves that had yellow stars worked into the pattern. They looked like a pair of children's mittens and they made her smile.
"Hey Reid, what're you doing here?"
She almost laughed when he jumped in his chair and almost fell out of it. He looked up at her and his cheeks were pink. "Um… hi Emily," He squeaked adorably.
I thought we were done with men.
She shushed the internal voice in her head that always popped out at the most inconvenient time. "What are you doing here? It's Christmas Eve."
"Why are you still here?" He squeaked back.
"I have a lot work to do."
"Me too," Reid agreed.
"I thought you were going home."
"I couldn't get a flight home. I didn't make reservations because I didn't know if we'd be on a case and so I thought I could get a flight on standby or something, but nothing was available." He said very fast, his face getting redder by the second.
"I'm sorry Reid." She reached over and rubbed a hand along him shoulder.
"Its okay, I should have made reservations before tonight."
"I'm sure she knows how much you love her."
"I don't think she does!" He snapped at her.
"I'm sorry." She let her hand slip away from his shoulder and went back to her desk.
Reid was quiet for a long time and then he said. "I'm sorry Emily." He looked up and saw tears running down her face. "Um… Oh…Emily I'm really sorry."
"It's okay…" She sniffed. "I better go."
She grabbed her coat and almost ran out of the bullpen.
He watched her go with his heart in his stomach. He shouldn't have snapped at her. He turned back to his desk and then peeked over his shoulder when the elevator pinged. She didn't look back at him and his heart sank even lower. He should do something to apologize for being short with her. But what could he do now that she was gone and it was a holiday? It wasn't like he would see her for days.
He looked down at the case file he was going to wallow in and threw it aside. He shouldn't have come back to the office. He should have gone home to his empty apartment. He'd have to face it sooner or later.
The case file went back into his desk and he pulled his gloves back onto his hands. Hiding here wasn't the answer. It was time to go home.
Emily poured another mug full of hot chocolate. The bottle of rum sitting on the counter was calling out to her, but it wasn't that great in the hot chocolate and she was drinking too much lately.
She shouldn't have stayed so long at work. If she hadn't, she would be crying again. She'd been crying way too much lately. It had to be the Christmas season. She'd be okay when it was all over for another year.
The apartment was dark except for a lone red candle burning on the coffee table. All of her decorations were back in storage, except for the tree which she hadn't got around to taking down. She stood at the large window and looked out at the lights again. Thank God they would be gone soon and things could get back to normal.
The knock at her door made her jump. Who the hell was at her door at eleven thirty on Christmas Eve? She ignored the door and concentrated on the snow that was beginning to fall again. Another knock at the door made her clench both hands into fists. Someone was in for it! She strode back to the door angrily flipping on the lights as she went.
"It's me," Reid's voice drifted through the door.
How the hell did he know where she lived? Probably he got Garcia to spill the beans. She was going to have a word with the computer tech when the holidays were over.
She yanked open the door. "What do you want?"
His nervous face, pink from the cold, fell at her tone. He looked at the floor and whispered. "I'm sorry, I'll just go now."
Damn him for making her feel guilty!
"Come in Reid." She grabbed his arm and pulled him inside.
She shut the door and turned on him. "Why are you here?"
"I um… I wanted to apologize for jumping down your throat earlier. Why don't I just go now?"
"No!" He flinched at level of her voice. "Look, I'm sorry that I'm so crabby. I just hate this time of year. Everyone has their family around them or someone that they love."
"I know what you're thinking," She went to the living room and he followed her to the couch. "I'm being selfish and naïve. I know that not everyone has family and a lover this time of year, but it seems like it most of the time."
"I know how you feel." He blurted out.
She wanted to say that he didn't know, but his face was white as a sheet. He looked so miserable and it tore at her heart.
"Reid, I'm sorry for everything. Can we start over?"
"I was making hot chocolate. Do you want some?"
Emily went to the kitchen. She picked up the ladle to spoon out some chocolate for Reid. Her hand was shaking and the ladle clattered around the edge of the pan. The only person in the world that she secretly wanted to be here with her on Christmas was sitting on her couch, and she was standing here freaking out about it. If she went out there and messed things up again…
Get it together and stop stalling!
It was just Reid. He wasn't scary. She could handle it. They'd have a cup of coco, he would leave and she would be alone again. She wiped away another tear and took the cups out to the living room.
Reid was standing in front of the tree with a perplexed look on his face. "Hey Reid," she said.
"Oh, um… I was just wondering if I should go. I guess you were going to decorate the tree and -"
"No, I wasn't, I was going to…"
He looked back at her and saw tears running down her cheeks. "Emily," He stood there twisting his hands together. He looked like he'd been hit with too much information at one time.
"I'm… I just don't… can you just leave?"
"No! I thought we were friends."
"I didn't mean to come here and upset you. I seem to be messing up all the time."
"No, you're not messing up. It's so dumb. I had the tree decorated and it was all this stuff my mom gave me. I hated it. Then she called and said that she had to go out of the country with my dad. Then my boyfriend called and said he was leaving on an emergency. I'm just so mad at the holidays right now."
"So if you want to go and leave the basket case alone, I'll understand."
"I don't want to leave. How about we decorate the tree the way you want?"
"I don't have any ornaments that aren't my mother's idea."
"It's okay, I have an idea."
Later, when the tree was done, they both stood back to admire it. The lights were back up and Reid was helping her hang the last of the home made ornaments they made with construction paper and glue. There was popcorn strung all over the tree and candy canes hung on the branches.
"This was a really good idea. Thanks Reid," She leaned over and kissed him lightly on the lips.
He went pink in the cheeks again and reached up to stroke her cheek. "Y-you're w-welcome."
"Is this okay?" She couldn't take her eyes off his beautiful face.
"Yeah… All I want for Christmas is you." He said.
"Really," she couldn't stop the grin that was spreading over her face.
"Yes, look where we're standing." He pointed up and she saw the mistletoe he was holding over their head.
"Why Spencer Reid, where did you get that?"
"Garcia gave it to me last week. She said she was sick of hearing me and you separately complaining to her about our love lives and each other not noticing the other."
"Smart woman, tell her I said thanks." Emily pulled him in for another kiss.
"I will," he said when she released his lips. "Merry Christmas Emily."
"Merry Christmas, Spencer."