Chapter One

Matt Hawkes stood and watched his sister say goodbye to her husband to be. They had been putting off thinking about his departure and now it was time for him to go. Matt leaned against the railing. Jess wasn't as strong as she used to be. Her emotions weren't as easy to hide as they once had been. He knew why. No one would ever blame it on hormones to her face but he knew he was in for a very long eight months. Matt knew that Derek Morgan would return in two weeks but he wondered if any of them would make it that long. One last goodbye and Jess tuned and let him go. Matt was waiting for her at the gate. Her eyes red, he wrapped his arm around her shoulder.

"He'll be back before you know it Jess." They walked out to Matt's SUV. "Till then you have a million things to do to get ready for the holidays and Cutler's coming home in a few days."

"Who are you trying to console? Yourself or me?"

"Jess…it won't seem that long if you keep busy."

"Is Flynn going to stay with Cutler till he can at least get out of bed?"

"Last I heard that was the plan. You want to swing by the hospital? You haven't seen him since Saturday."

"Is he mad at me?"

"No, Jess. He knows you needed to work things out with Derek. Shep didn't like the way his lung was healing so they did a few more tests. Everything is fine and the nurses are begging for his release." Jess smiled as she got into the truck.

"No one deserves Cutler after he's been cooped up for a few days. Did you bring him that plate I made him last night?"

"Before I went to bed last night."

"Speaking of…your bed was suspiciously empty last night big brother."

"I thought you and Derek needed some time alone." He smiled. "The next two weeks will fly by Jess. You'll see." He was changing the subject. She looked out the window at the snowy landscape.

"I know." She looked at Matt. "Thanks again for driving him to the airport."

"I didn't mind."

"You lost."

"I was the only one strong enough to pull you away from the gate if need be." Jess smiled. She hadn't done much smiling in the last twenty four hours.

"How's things with Robin?"

"We're taking it slow." Jess rolled her eyes.

"Two months is taking it slow Matt. You've had twenty years." She knew her brother was worried about what would happen to his twenty year friendship with Robin. "She's been there this long Matt. She's not going anywhere."

"Just because you're happily in love Jess doesn't give you the power to see what everyone else is feeling."

"I know both of you better then anyone. You both deserve to be happy Matt." He pulled in front of the hospital.

"But not necessarily with each other. Don't get me wrong Jess I love Robin. I have for a long time. But am I in love with her? I don't know. You and Cutler made it work when your relationship was over."

"It's because Cutler is a son of a bitch. We fight most of the time but I know he has my back and he knows I have his. It's just the way we are Matt. Can you be that way if things don't work with Robin?"

"After twenty years I would hope we could work anything out." They got out of the truck. "You not going to freak on me if things don't work out, are you?" She looked at him. He might be ten years older then her but he was still the boy she remembered, always worried if things would get taken care of.

"No. My days of freaking out are coming to end." They walked into the hospital. "I think pending marriage and motherhood brings freaking out to a minimum."

"Or makes it ten times worse." Matt pushed the elevator button. "Your going to handle things just fine Jess."

"I'm counting on that. If I don't you have my permission to slap me." They got in the elevator. Jess pressed the second floor.

"Can I get that in writing?" The doors open and they stepped out to yelling. "Please tell me Cutler isn't in the middle of this." Jess looked around. The door was open to his room.

"You find out what's going on I'll go check on the trouble maker." Jess went into Cutler's room. He was sleeping. She looked out to see Matt talking to Shep. Closing the door she sat down.

"Thanks. It was getting kind of loud out there." Cutler opened his eyes.

"What's going on out there?"

"Best I can tell some pissed off husband came looking for his wife. I just thought I'd stay out of it."

"Good thinking."

"Morgan get off okay?"

"Yeah. We both shed a few tears. But it's only two weeks, right?" He looked at her.

"Yeah. Two weeks is nothing." Jess took a deep breath.

"How are you?" She took his hand in hers.

"Shep said if I'm really good I may be able to go home tomorrow."

"I can't see you being good but maybe he'll let you go home anyway. Flynn said he was going to spend a few days with you. Think you can handle that?"

"If it means getting out of this place I'd move in with Izzy." Jess laughed.

"Clair already has it in for Cody. You don't need to be put on that list." Matt came in.

"Another day in paradise." Matt looked at Jess. "Sorry to cut this short but the Sheriff just called and a bunch of hunter's near Lake Jen just started their tents on fire. Cody, Hart and Robin have it covered but we need to get back to the station."

"Flynn will be here later okay." Jess stood and kissed the top of his forehead.

"Be careful."

"We always are." They both said at the same time and headed out the door.

"You take care of what was going on out here?"

"Just flashed my badge and he headed for the hills. Shep will call the Sheriff if he comes back." They took the steps down to the lobby. "Have you heard from Aaron Bass's granddaughter lately?"

"Not since last summer when she came into town to visit. She's still in Sacramento as far as I know"

"I thought I heard Cody say something about her coming up for Christmas."

"Jack Lawson was watching the fishing lodge. I could call him."

"I just don't want those hunters burning down that place with their stupidity. That's all Jen needs." They got into the truck and Matt pulled out of the lot sirens on.

"It's all she has left of Aaron." Jess missed Aaron Bass. He had lived to see his granddaughter get married on Lake Jen twelve years ago and then he died peacefully in his sleep a month later. "Jack was just up there before the last big storm. He called me to tell me everything was okay."

"You stay and man the phones and I'll see what Cody's found out." They stopped in front of the station. It was only Monday but Jess could feel they were in for a long hard week.


"Jess please!" Cody stood in front of his sister at the front desk.

"For the last time no!" She looked at him. "I'm not going to do it Cody."

"It's for an hour Jess. Just an hour." Glaring at him she shook her head.

"I will not sit thought a budget meeting. You can't make me. I have no rights or reason for having to sit thought anything that boring."

"All Matt has to do is turn in the budget and answer any questions. You know the answers as well as he does."

"And so do you. And it's your job. Not mine."

"Jess if I miss this doctor's appointment with Sarah she will make sure those boys are the last children I have. She can't handle both of them when they get their shots. They feed on each other's misery and make her feel worse. Please Jess. For the sake of my marriage. Matt's still looking for one of those hunter's on the ridge." Jess looked at him. She wanted to let him stew for a few minutes longer but he looked so damned pitiful.

"I'm doing for Sarah. Not you." She grabbed the folders Cody gave her. "You owe me Cody." Flynn was on the chair by the door. "Get up and give me a ride." She smacked Flynn's head with the files.

"Who died and made me your driver?" He got up.

"Just shut up and drive." Cody smiled as he watched Jess get into Flynn's jeep. Hart came in.

"One of these days Cody, she's going to shoot your ass and you're the only one who won't know why." He sat down at the front desk.

"She needs to get out and get some fresh air." He grabbed his coat. "I'll be back in a couple of hours. Matt should be back with Izzy and Robin by dinner."

"Yeah, Yeah. You all go have your fun and let me have some peace and quiet for a change."


Three hours later Jess stamped the snow off her boots and headed to the kitchen. Flynn was smart and headed upstairs in the opposite direction. Matt was sitting behind his desk. Cody was standing behind him looking at something on the computer monitor. Going in the office she slammed the door behind her and threw the files on Matt's desk. Cody looked up.

"So how was the board meeting?" If he didn't know better he thought he heard Jess growled at him.

"Either one of you send me into one of those meetings again I will unadopt myself from this family and you will never see me or the child I'm baring ever again." Matt looked at her then at Cody.

"You sent her. Cody I told you that I needed you to go in there and charm them not send in…her…to scare the hell out of them."

"Sarah needed me to take the boys to get their shots. It wasn't my choice. All she had to do was give them the paper work and answer some lame questions." Matt glared at him and then looked at Jess.

"Please tell me they approved the budget Jess." Glaring at Cody she adjusted her sling on her right arm.

"They ambushed me Matt. Wanted to know figures and reasons for going over budget and why you're not married yet." She shook her head and closed her eyes. "Three hours Matt. Three hours of old, cranky people throwing questions at me left and right. And then the started in on suggestions. Matt I'm going to kill him. As soon as my arm heals enough to raise a gun I will shoot him." She glared at Cody.

"Jess…I will dig the hole. Now please tell me we got our budget approved for next year or we'll be living off your check till that runs out then we'll be eating cat food." Jess cracked a smile. Matt was too easy. She could yank his chain without even working up a sweat. It always helped when Cody was involved and didn't even know it. She threw down a brown envelope. Matt grabbed it and his letter opener and tore into it. He took out the check. "Jess this is almost double them I asked for."

"Little sister isn't as antisocial as you were let to believe."

"How did you do it? I mean they never lift and eyebrow at the numbers and they knew Derek was signing on but I thought they would have some questions."

"Oh they did. Seems word has gotten around that we need better medical insurance. That's what the extra money is for. Nothing but the best medical care for the Rangers."

"Clair's dad is on the board. He must have gotten a copy of your last trip the ER. "Matt smiled. "You're my go to for my budget from now on. Who needs Mr. Charm when I have the walking wounded." Cody faked being offended.

"You got him good Jess. I thought he couldn't get any paler." Matt punched Cody's shoulder. "Okay would someone go for the left one once in a while? My right shoulder will need replacing soon."


Derek Morgan sat in his apartment. He looked at his watch and it was five minutes later then the last time he looked. It hadn't been a full twelve hours yet and he was missing Jess already. Hotch had called just after he had gotten in to let him know that the team was meeting in the morning. One last case to wrap things up before he left the stress and strain of big city crime fighting. He smiled. Jess would laugh when he told her he was going to be useless to anyone until he saw her again. He would work this last case. Make his last calls to Garcia. Fight his last fight with Rossi. Share one last drink with Reid. He was ready to leave this place and start new with Jess. Getting up he went to his room laid on his bed and made a phone call that he was almost desperate to make.


"High Mountain Ranger's HMR Hawkes speaking how may I help you?"

"You can come rescue me from my lonely existence." Jess smiled.

"I believe you are a bit out of my jurisdiction."

"I thought you could cross state lines if you're called to assist another department asked for your assistance"

"Is the FBI asking for my assistance?"

"This agent is. I miss you so much Jess."

"You got it bad Agent Morgan."

"I know. Have you decided on where you wanted to get married?"


"Jess we can't do that to your family or mine."

"I know. Did you know Cutler is a licensed mister?"

"No, that's one thing I did not know about him."

"He was ordained online. It's legal in seventeen states and the District of Columbia."

"Really? Are you going someplace with this?"

"Well…I was thinking…"

"Oh God, I'm in trouble." Jess laughed.

"Three weddings."

"Coming from the girl who wanted to go to Vegas. Three weddings Jess."

"One here, one in Chicago and one in DC."

"Jess your nuts."

"Family and friends here bring it to like fifty people. How about Chicago?"

"About that I guess. If not less."


"Thirty tops."

"Now come on that's a wedding for a hundred and thirty. We just have to say I do three times. I can declare my love for you a million times if that's what it takes Derek. We have to do Christmas here and New Year's in Chicago anyway. Then we can rent a truck and move your things here. Our honeymoon can be a road trip from DC to California."

"Have you talked this over with anyone?"

"You're the only one I have to talk anything over with. So what do you think?"

"I think you're trying to make too many people happy. The Vegas thing is looking better and better."

"Come on a fifteen minute ceremony and a couple of hours for dinner and whatever. Come on Derek. We can do this."

"You're loosing your mind woman. I guess…if you think it'll work."

"I'll start to ball rolling."

"My first New Year's resolution is to make you my wife Jess so I guess if that way works for you."

"Okay then. I got to get back to work so you my love sit back and let me do all the work. Anyplace special in Chicago you want to make plans at?"

"You handle your mountain, I'll handle Chicago and when that's done we'll plan dinner here in DC. How does that sound?" Jess smiled.

"Have I told you that you're the most incredible man I have ever met?"

"Not during this phone call. I love you Jess."

"Don't forget that. I love you too Derek." Jess hung up and smiled. Things were going to be okay. She could feel it. Grabbing her files she headed of to do the work she'd been letting get behind and prayed she'd make it all work in the end.