This was written in the middle of the first season. Most of the characters and situations belong to NBC and other entities, and no infringement is intended in any way. All other characters are my invention, and if you want to mess with them, you have to ask me first. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any. Many thanks to Michelle, who beta-read this for me. Feedback is most appreciated.



Snow



"Ooh! Fresh snow." Cody pulled his head back in the door. "It's still falling," he reported to his teammates, and walked over to his desk to scoop up a coffee mug.

The other three received this news with something less than enthusiasm. "Great," Monica muttered. "That just means I'll have to dig my car out. Again."

Jake leaned his head on his arms, which were crossed over the back of the reversed chair he'd chosen. "I'll give you a hand if you'll give me a ride," he offered lazily.

"What, is your bike down again?" Monica asked, and Jake snorted a laugh.

"You try riding a motorcycle in a blizzard. I took the bus this morning."

"How the mighty have fallen," Alex commented, entering the briefing area with a fresh bottle of water.

Jake cocked a brow at her but did not rise to the bait. "What do you say, Monica?"

The profiler flipped her long braid over her shoulder. "Sure, it's a deal."

Cody peered suspiciously into the mug and decided that it was clean. "Back in a minute," he announced, and headed back to the door. The snow was falling thickly but was not the blizzard that Jake had complained about; the air was actually quite still, with the hush peculiar to snowfall, and the thick white coated the older, grayer snow and made the dingy surroundings look clean. Cody, already shivering, waded out to the nearest car and began scooping snow into his mug, being careful not to scrape down to the surface of the vehicle.

When his mug was packed, he straightened and held still for a moment, savoring the rare quiet that muffled the city's sounds. Then he tilted his head back and watched the flakes spinning down from the low clouds; specks of white that tumbled and grew as they neared him, until he could make out the tangled flakes that made up each feathery clump. For an instant, his perspective wavered, and he seemed to be rushing forward into an endless grey void. Then he wobbled, recovered his balance, and laughed. Sticking out his tongue, he managed to catch one big fluff before he turned back to the building.

The hum of an engine made him look up. Donovan's car was coming down the street, and Cody decided to wait despite his frozen feet and numb nose. Their leader parked his car neatly and unfolded from it, dressed in a long black coat and a surprisingly garish muffler. The snow immediately began to star his hair and coat as he walked toward Cody. "Is everybody here?" he asked as he neared, giving Cody half a smile.

"Yup." Cody pulled the door open and held it so Donovan could pass through, then shook his head violently to get rid of some of the snow that clung to his hair. "Traffic bad?" It wasn't like Donovan to be late.

"There was an accident on the freeway." Donovan strode ahead and Cody followed him toward the brightly-lit center of their nest. The taller man divested himself of coat and scarf as he walked, and tossed them over a chair. "Good morning, everybody. I'm sorry I'm late. Monica, are you ready?"

Cody resumed his seat as Monica began; he tuned his ears to what she was saying, but set down his mug and reached for the small squeeze bottle he'd brought in that morning.

Alex glanced over at Cody and was puzzled to see the techno-wizard drizzling a brown, translucent fluid over the snow in his mug. She watched in bemusement as he capped the bottle, stuck a spoon in the snow, and began eating with every evidence of enjoyment.

Alex wrenched her attention back to Monica's briefing, but her eyes kept darting back to Cody's snack. Finally Monica wrapped it up, and Donovan asked them to wait a moment while he went to his office for a file. Alex rolled her chair closer to Cody. "*What *are you eating?" she demanded.

Cody looked up at her, all innocence. "Snow and maple syrup," he replied.

"Snow and *syrup*?" Alex repeated, not quite believing what she heard. "Are you serious?"

"Sure. It's an old family tradition." Cody grinned and held out the mug. "Want a taste?"

Alex shook her head. "That's just weird."

"What's just weird?" Jake asked.

"He put maple syrup on snow, and he's eating it," Alex said, pointing at Cody. The younger man tilted the mug and a brow toward Jake, who thought a moment, shrugged, and took it for a sample.

"So?" Monica said, sitting on the table's edge. "Settlers used to pour maple syrup on snow to make candy. 'Sugaring-off,' I think it was called."

"This isn't candy," Jake said, handing the mug back to Cody. "It's not half bad, either," he added thoughtfully. "Is that real maple syrup?"

"Of course," Cody said mock-indignantly, scraping the last bit of snow up with his spoon. "Dad has relations in Maine that send him some every year."

The phone rang in Donovan's office, and they heard him answer it; a moment later his door swung shut, and they all relaxed. It might be a while before he came back.

"So what are you doing for Christmas?" Jake asked the room in general. "Assuming we aren't working, of course." A chorus of groans met his qualifier, and Monica rolled her eyes.

"We better not be. My sisters are expecting me for the usual huge family gathering."

Cody set down his mug and spoon. "Dinner with my dad. Hopefully he won't burn the turkey this time."

There was a little silence. Jake swung around to look at Alex, who shrugged with careful nonchalance. "Bubble bath and TV. I'm not really in a Christmasy mood this year."

"You should come with me," Jake said. "Believe me, there's nothing like a whole dining hall full of kids to put you in a Christmasy mood."

Alex shook her head. "Thanks, but--"

"Aw, c'mon," Jake coaxed. "Don't make me face all that excitement by myself."

"You should go," Cody concurred. "Shouldn't she, Monica?"

"Absolutely." Monica slid off the table and straightened. "Or she can come with me. There's no room for the holiday blues at our place."

A reluctant smile crept across Alex's face. "You guys are determined to make me do something, aren't you?"

"Choose," Jake told her, grinning.

"Okay, okay," she held up her hands, laughing. "I'll go with you, Jake. Thanks for the invitation, Monica."

Donovan's door swung open and their leader reappeared at high speed. "Into the van, everybody. Full gear. Let's move!"

Thirty seconds of scramble later, they were gone, leaving the lights burning down on one sticky, empty mug, a spoon, and a forgotten yellow-and- green plaid muffler.



*****



Two days later--Christmas Eve

Monica and Jake arrived at the nest at the same time, and he parked his bike neatly near her car. The roads were clear, though snow still covered trees and unmoved cars, and the late-afternoon sun was disappearing behind a bank of dark cloud. The icy wind whipped color into Jake's cheeks as he pulled off his helmet and joined Monica, who was swathed in a fluffy blue coat.

"Doesn't that dent your image?" she asked dryly, nodding toward the black, glossy sphere.

Jake laughed. "Gotta set an example for the kids. Besides, Father Mike would kill me if he caught me riding without it."

They hurried inside to find the others waiting. When they were all settled, Donovan spoke up.

"Thank you all for coming in today. This will only take a few minutes, and you should all have plenty of time to get where you're going. First--"

He passed around thin envelopes. "The powers that be in the Justice Department have seen fit to hand out Christmas bonuses this year. I can only add that they are very much deserved." His smile was small, but they all felt the warmth in it.

"Second, because of your diligence in our latest case, and in particular your hard work of the last three weeks, Manzotti's operation has collapsed completely. As of yesterday, our involvement is finished. Since we have nothing else pressing, you may all have the next week off, until New Year's Day."

This time he grinned outright at the dropped jaws. "Unless you want to come in and catch up on paperwork..."

"Uh, no, that's okay," Cody said hastily.

Alex nudged Monica, who had a sudden smug, dreamy smile. "What?"

"The Bahamas," Monica said softly. "I'm going to have to call Jess back..." Alex chuckled.

"Go on," Donovan said, making shooing motions. "Get out of here."

They all got up and gathered their things. Cody pulled his jacket on and glanced over at Donovan. "Nice scarf, boss," he said with a cheeky grin.

Donovan glanced down at it as though he'd forgotten it existed. "It was a gift," he said with great dignity. Cody laughed and left, Monica not far behind him. Cody was humming, and it took Donovan a moment to place the tune as "Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat..."

Jake watched Alex put on her coat, hefted his helmet in one hand, and grinned wickedly at a sudden thought. "Hey Alex."

She glanced up. "What?"

"I dare you to ride to Holy Cross with me."

Her eyes widened. "On your motorcycle? You've got to be kidding."

"Nope." His grin widened. "C'mon, it can't be any worse than the way you drive." He held out the helmet. "If you're chicken, you can wear this."

For a moment he thought she was going to refuse, but then an answering spark leapt in her eyes. "You're on."

They started toward the door, but then Alex looked back at Donovan, who was packing files into a briefcase. "What are you doing for Christmas, boss?"

He didn't look up. "Paperwork."

Alex and Jake looked at each other. Alex raised a brow. Jake shrugged, and handed her the helmet before turning back. "Come with us."

Donovan straightened, surprised. "To Holy Cross?"

"Sure. The more, the merrier. The kids'll love you." And they would, Jake thought, remembering Donovan's ease with the kidnapped Ryan.

Their leader looked back down at the briefcase, and Jake realized that the older man was unprepared for the offer. Then Donovan closed the case and latched it, and left it on the table. "All right." He glanced at his watch. "Can I meet you there? I have an errand I have to run."

"No problem," Jake answered, pleased that Donovan had accepted. He led the way out.

"Do you think he'll show?" Alex asked, settling the helmet on her head but leaving the visor up.

"Yeah, he'll show." Jake watched the tall form as Donovan unlocked his car door. "He

might even have a good time." Jake climbed onto the bike and kicked it into life just as snowflakes began to float down. "D'you mind if we make a stop on the way?" he shouted over the roar.

Alex swung onto the seat behind him and wrapped her arms around his middle. "No," she shouted back. "What do you need to do?"

Jake waved at the thickening snow. "I want to pick up some maple syrup." He gunned the bike and Alex's clasp tightened; they sped off into the shadowy evening, Jake laughing at Alex's shriek. Behind them, their boss shook his head, smiled wryly, and hoped they survived the trip. He was looking forward to the celebration.