Christmas Mountain

Chapter One

Cody Hawkes sat behind the desk in the High Mountain Ranger weather room going over some weather reports. Thanksgiving was over and now ski season was in full swing and it was up to him decide if the weather warranted the ski hills to shut down when bad weather permitted. He hated this part of his job. He knew he should have taken less meteorology classed and more physiology classes like his sister. Jess gets to talk jumpers off of buildings and he gets to kick skiers off mountains. Where's the justice there.

"You closing the slopes yet Toad? It's looking kind of bleak out there." Matt Hawkes came into the room.

"Not till six. I think the cold front will hold out till then. I called the lodge and The Summit and told them to stop the lifts at five."

"Sounds good. I really don't want to go chasing stray skiers up and down the mountain all night." Matt looked at his messages. "Jess around?"

"Last time I saw our baby sister she was yelling at a piece of wood she couldn't get the ax though. I thought it best I find a corner and leave her to her frustrations."

"Derek's only been gone three days." He shook his head. "How many days till Christmas?"

"Twenty-eight. Ask me why I know this."

"Why do you, the father of three know how many days it is till Christmas?" Matt laughed.

"My six year old wakes me up at five in the morning every morning and tells me exactly how many days it is till Christmas." He handed Matt some weather reports. "If and when you find our little sister tell her she's on KP duty tonight and she can't get Cutler to cover for her this time because he's gone up to Gabe's to make sure he's ready for the next storm."

"Dad needs to talk that old man off that mountain before we have to hall his frozen dead body down it."

"Well aren't you full of fine holiday cheer." Matt looked at his brother.

"Sorry, just have a lot on my mind. With Jess half out of her mind lately I seem to be taking on a little too much."

"Quit covering for her Matt. She needs to get back in the swing of things. I know she's on light duty but that doesn't give her the right to slack off."

"Says the man who's been doing her paper work for the last week." Matt glared at his little brother.

"I was just making sure it was done right."

"Jess has been doing her own paper work and yours for about ten years now. I think she knows how to dot her I's and cross her ts."

"Okay so we both have to stop babying her. Derek will be back for Christmas and then she'll be gone till after the New Year. Bonus for us." Matt sat on the corner of the weather desk.

"You're going to miss her when she's gone."

"And your not? What if she decides to stay in DC?"

"You know that will never happen. Derek will be here before too long and our lives can go back to normal."

"We can only hope. Sarah's making stew tonight. You want to come by the house for dinner?"

"I better hang out here. Jess and Robin are on kitchen duty. I may have to man the fire extinguisher."

"I heard that Hawkes." Robin said from the kitchen.

"I thought that sounded a little loud."

"Your just lucky Robin's been in such a good mood lately." Cody smiled. "You wouldn't know why would you?"

"Nope. Haven't really talked much since Thanksgiving." The front door opened and slammed shut. "Little sister's home."

"Good luck with that." Cody went back to his papers.

"One of these days Toad." Matt stood up. "Jess you got a minute?" He walked out into the lobby.

"Yeah, what do you need?"

"My office." Cody shook his head.

"Wrong move my brother." He whispered under his breath. "She's going to eat you for dinner."

"Yeah sure just let me get a cup of coffee." She walked into the kitchen and got a cup and poured herself some coffee and went to Matt's office. She slammed the door. Matt had sat down and he looked at her.

"Was that necessary?"

"No but I know it pisses you off." She sat down in front of his desk.

"I noticed you've been a little restless lately. I know you're itching to get back to full duty but Shep wants you to take it easy for another couple of weeks."

"I can only chop so much wood Matt."

"I know how you feel Jess when I blew out my knee a few years back I nearly went crazy." He took out some files. "I need to budget for a couple of police dogs. In theory I would like at least one search and rescue dog and one drug dog but I want you do run the numbers. You and Cutler have had the training so I thought you'd like to head the committee to get the grant."

"I guess I could do the research." He handed her some files. "Why are you doing this?"

"I need to get the paper work in by the thirty first."

"You've been talking rescue dogs for ten years. Why now?"

"I have the man power to delegate. I have someone I can trust to do the research. Also with that big fat check we got from that helicopter crash victim I have a little extra in the budget if the grand falls though."

"You're not just doing this because I'm getting hard to live with?"

"If that be the case I'd be giving extra crap to do all the time." He sat forward in his chair. "Jess I know it was hard to say good bye to Derek but he's coming back."

"I know. And I'm sorry I've been so nasty. You and the rest of team don't deserve it." Jess looked down at her red snow pants. "I never missed anyone like I miss him. I missed Cody when he was in the Marines and I missed you all when I was in DC but it was nothing like this."

"Different kind of love." He sat back and looked at his sister. She hadn't slept much in the days since Derek had left. He knew she wasn't taking anything for her pain because it made her feel fuzzy. "Why don't you cut out early and get some rest. I'll do the dishes."

"No. Cody already has a stick up his butt because Cutler's been doing it for me. Robin is making some kind of casserole. It smells good."

"I think I'm eating stale bread tonight. I mentioned something about having to stick around to put out fires." Jess shook her head.

"Not making any points there big brother." Jess stood up. "Maybe I'll go set the table and see if I can smooth things over for you." Matt smiled.

"Do what you can." He turned back to the computer. "Hey Jess?"

"Yeah."

"Thanks for doing that leg work for me."

"Don't tell Cody but I like paper work." She turned and opened the door to the office and dropped the papers at the front desk and headed to the kitchen. The phone rang and Matt picked it up.

"Ranger Station, Hawkes speaking how can I help you?"

"Tell me you sisters really far away from the phone right now."

"Hey Derek. Yeah, she just went into the kitchen to help Robin with dinner. What's up?"

"I just wanted to see how she was. She tells me she's fine but I know she'll lie to spare me worrying about her."

"Ask Cody he's say I should put her on the next thing smoking your direction. I think she needs to keep busy. She's tired, board and a little lonely. How about you?"

"I'm hanging in there. Hotch isn't happy I'm looking for something out there but he understands. Garcia is making things a little rough but I promised I'd call at least once a day just to hear her voice." Matt laughed.

"Well just don't take too long. I love my sister but she's picking fights with Cody and Cutler like there's no tomorrow. I gave her some stuff to do that hopefully will keep her busy till Christmas. I'm almost tempted to send her up the mountain on a wild goose chase."

"Knowing your sister she would find trouble. How did the search go at Coral Ridge?"

"We found a lot of nothing. No one's talking and now there's nothing we can do till the snow thaws. I'm thinking the barns that got pushed in the avalanche might contain something but we stopped digging when the snow kept filling the holes we dug in."

"Does someone have to stay up there to protect the crime scene?"

"No one asked us. The DEA took over about three days into the search which is fine with me. I could do without the headache."

"I can imagine. I better let you get back to work. I just got home and was hoping I could get some answers from you."

"Did you?"

"More honest then from your sister. I may pull myself away from my desk in a few days and come see for myself."

"We'd all like that. You've become a big part of this family."

"It's an honor. Thanks again Matt. I'll call Jess later."

"Okay. Stay safe Morgan."

"You to my friend." Matt hung up. He looked out his office window into the kitchen. Jess, Hart, Avila, and Julie Sullivan sat at the table with Robin. Matt shook his head. Julie was the best dispatcher the sheriff's department had but he truly questioned her skills as a Deputy and a Ranger. There were days when the woman drove him to the edge of sanity. Much like his sister. Maybe he would skip dinner all together. Turning back to the computer he started his year end paper work twenty nine days early.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

"Here." Jess put a plate on Matt's desk. "I smooth things over with Robin and you hide your head in the sand."

"I wasn't hiding from Robin."

"Fire her Matt. The only thing Julie does right is make coffee and answers the phone. Why do you keep her hanging on?"

"I don't know. She looks good on paper Jess."

"Magazine paper maybe. In the center fold. I wouldn't have taken you for an ass man." Jess shook her head.

"Jess go clean a bathroom or muck a stall and leave me to my misery." She sat on the corner of his desk.

"Cutler's back before noon tomorrow if the weather holds. Make him do it."

"Jess I don't have time to look for a replacement. You know how hard it is to go though the process of going though applications and qualifications. Maybe in the spring."

"Springs only six to eight months away." She jumped off the edge of the desk. "Can you hold out till then?" She looked at her brother. "When you bring that plate back into the kitchen you better tell that woman how utterly wonderful that casserole was. And wash your own plate because I'm already done cleaning up." Jess turned and went to the front desk where Julie was manning the phones and picked up her files and headed to the kitchen to do paper work leaving Matt to shake his head and wonder how he got so lucky to have a sister with such insight and she didn't even know it.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

Jess was filling out the forms Matt asked her to fill out when Cutler came though the door. A gust of wind caught some of the papers and sent them flying. Jess threw her body on top of them to stop them from blowing out of her reach.

"Hey, what do you think you're doing back already?"

"I stocked the man's pantry, I chopped enough wood to last him till spring and I shoveled a path to his outhouse. Jess how did your dad stand to be with that man up there for so many years?"

"I think he hiked a lot. And sent Cody to do his bidding." Jim shook the snow from his think black hair that showed little signs of turning gray.

"Cody will pay for this. I'll be damned just because I can't read a barometer I get stuck trucking up the mountain in the dead a winter to shovel out a crazy man's out house." Jess laughed and went to the fridge and pulled out a plate of casserole and put it in the microwave.

"Thanks for doing it. I would have done it if I had been up to it. I wouldn't have made it down if I had." Cutler's eyes softened.

"You don't have to take the bullet for him Jess."

"I like Gabe. He's a good man." The bell went off and Jess got the plate and set it on the table and poured Cutler a glass of milk.

"Remind me again why I didn't marry you?" She smiled.

"Because you're a womanizing jack ass who can't see beyond a woman's T and A." She kissed him on the top of the head and went back to her papers.

"I thought that might be the reason. Any chance I can try again?"

"Nope. One self destructing relationship is all I allowed myself for this lifetime. Maybe my next one I'll look you up." He laughed and dug into the casserole.

"Good stuff. You make this?"

"No Robin did." Cutler looked surprised. "Don't choke on it." Matt came into the kitchen and rinsed off his plate.

"Where's Robin?"

"Barn. Cody's horse is ready to foal. Leave it to Cody to buy the slutiest mare at the action."

"She's flawless Jess you got to admit."

"For a slut." Matt laughed.

"Just because that stallion at Coral Ridge nearly knocked you on your ass to get to her doesn't make her a slut." He grabbed two cups of coffee and slipped on a sweat shirt. "I'll be in the barn if anyone needs me." Jess never looked up from her papers.

"Kay, Miss Congeniality is manning the phones. I'm sure she'll find you if she needs too."

"Jess be nice." He shut the door and headed to the barn.

"Twenty bucks he kisses her tonight." Cutler watched Matt walk up the incline to the barn.

"Cutler I will not be betting on my brother's sex life with my best friend."

"Come on Jess she had to of told you she's hot for him."

"James Alvin Cutler I'm appalled you would even ask me that."

"Come on, we've had sex. That trumps the best friend card every time." Jess shook her head.

"How do you know that Robin doesn't fall under that blanket?" Cutler looked at Jess eyes wide. She threw a rag at his head. "Only you would stop and wonder if it was true. You my friend are a truly twisted man." Grabbing her papers she headed to Matt's office to work because talking to Jim Cutler was giving her a headache.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

The palomino mare was restless. Robin was talking softly to her in French. It was soothing the horse and she paced less and relaxed.

"What are you saying to her?" Matt whispered.

"I told her that the stallion that did this to her has already been taken care of." Robin laughed softly.

"I brought you some coffee. I'm sorry I missed dinner. I just couldn't face Sullivan."

"When are you going to fire her?"

"Did Jess put you up to that?" He smiled. "Soon I promise. I have to see about a few things. The casserole was good."

"Jess put you up to that?"

"Yeah, but it was really good Robin." He leaned on the stall door and sipped his coffee. "We haven't really talked since Thanksgiving. How are things going with you?"

"Good. My brother Daniel may come here for Christmas. He's single and the lodge is doing well. He wants to get away for awhile."

"It's been a long time since he's been here. It'll be nice."

"I think so. Jess has big plans to keep him busy when he's here."

"If you need any time off just let me know. I got some pull around here." He handed Robin her coffee. Their hands touched. Matt felt a spark he'd never experienced before. Leaning over he did what Robin told him to do the last time he felt the urge to kiss her. His lips met hers and warmth spread though his cold body. Dropping his coffee cup on the barn floor he took her face in his hands and deepened the kiss. Robin's heart soared as his lips ravished hers. Things would have gotten much hotter if the sound of someone clearing their throat hadn't interrupted them. Matt broke the kiss. "Toad I'm going to kill you." He turned to see his younger brother with a grin the size of Texas across his face.

"Phone call." Matt grabbed Robin's coffee cup and threw it at Cody's retreating form. Face red Matt turned around and looked at Robin.

"I'm sorry….."She put her finger on his lips.

"I'm not….go answer the call. I'll be out here if you need me." Matt turned and slowly walked out of the barn and hopped she didn't notice how much he needed her before he turned to leave. Taking deep breaths he headed back to the main building to get the phone and kill his little brother.